Sunday, April 25, 2010

Robson, Butcher, Hanilton, Et Al

Well, Ive read everything on my list except the one I probably should have read first (but my step-daughter is reading it -maybe she'll review it). And I can catch you up to my reading list quickly and efficiently by author/ In alphabetical order:

Butcher (The Harry Dresden Saga)-

I not only read the one on my list, but have read the next one as well. I don't know what it is about Dresden that always seems to evoke a response, but it does. This is not classic fantasy, heck its not classic anything, but its a good entertaining read. Harry always seems to have a price to pay for doing the right thing, and its amazing just who shows up to help him pick up the tab. If you haven't familiarized yourself with Harry Dresden - and you have an evening or two to devote to reading - you should. He's my favorite comic book character since Spider-Man, but much more accessible. Three Stars!

Hamilton (Merry Gentry Series)

Even the titles have become somewhat overly suggestive to the initiated. Frost is one of Merry's many elven lovers, so the title Licking Frost takes on the classic double entendre. Fortunately, while sex in semi-graphic detail is still a major component of the book, it is not the only component. Merry's story is advanced into yet another chapter of complication. Ms. Hamilton will have to work hard to keep all of Merry's lovers straight in the readers perceptions, much less all of the characters - of which there are more in this story. All in all, unless your into reading semi-soft porn, I'd give this one a bye. Ots not bad, but its slipping fast into one of the two traps of series writing - over-complication (the other being formulaic plots). Can the series be redeemed? Absolutely! And Ms. Hamilton is just the author to do it, but this isn't the book that will save the day. Two and a Half Stars

Robson (Quantum Gravity Series)

I finished the 4 book series with its unbelievable plot twists and devices. And most of it was pretty good. The ending sucked. Period. After all that build up and the potential of the main character, it was a total bust. Really an antithesis to the purpose of the main character and her travails. Sorry Ms. Robson. The first book was excellent, but you lost your way in the morass of settings and characters. One star.

Well, that's it until I can get the next couple of books back from my step-daughter. I am re-reading Paladin of Souls by one of my favorite authors who writes the best character driven books that I have read since Heinlein (And her characters are much, well, better). I'll keep reading. Anybody read any good books lately?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rerun: Lord of Light

"His followers called him Mahatmasaman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the mahatma and the aman and just be called Sam. He never claimed to be a god. But then again, he never claimed not to be a god. Circumstances being what they were, neither admission could be of any benefit. Silence, though, could.

"Therefore, there was mystery about him."

- Opening papargraphs from Lord of Light

Its always tough to review a master and not sound like you're just one of the multitude that love his work. Guilty! That's me - I love Zelazny. I've never read a bad book or short story that he wrote. But even he had works that stood out from the bulk of his writing. Lord of Light is one of those works. It won the Hugo in 1968 (when even I was just a pup) and has stood the test of time as a classic. Its every bit as cogent and timely now as it was back then - heck, maybe more so.

Immortality has been granted to the elite, by - well - the elite. They also have unimaginable technologies at their command. And so they rule their new world as gods. With all their human frailties, egos and insecurities still intact. Not a good thing for those not of the inner least as far as Sam is concerned. But what's one guy supposed to do? Raise demons and attack heaven? Well, if that's what it takes...

This book is an incredible mixture of mythology, science, politics and foibles. As always, Zelazny captures the best and the worst of the human condition in characters that are, at the same time, both larger than life and easy to identify with. This one makes my top 25, and is only just barely out of my top 10. But them again, This Immortal is in my top 10. Nobody writes like Zelazny. Thank God! I couldn't afford the darned books if there was another one!

The Devil's Eye by Jack McDevitt

I literally just put this one down.

I must admit that in the beginning I was somewhat bored with the book. Just another Alex Benedict novel of galactic treasure hunting with a twist ending and smug smiles from our hero.

Wrong! This one turns into a nail-biter and Alex isn't the hero. Chase Kolpath, trusty pilot and sidekick manages to steal the show and save the world (literally) from its own short-sightedness as well as a small matter of an imprnding gamma ray bombardment that will only last 3 days. Now if only the Confederacy and the Mutes can get along after only a couple of centuries of hostilities, maybe somebody can do something. But who and what? The answer is formulaic and profound, its almost Zen in its causal/reactionary unfolding.

This is the best McDevitt I've read since The Hercules Text and it is much more approachable emotionally than that great work. This is a great read...and after I panned Cauldron. My faith is restored and my cup runneth over. I give it 4-1/2 stars. Which ain't perfect, but as close as you can get without actually being there. Read this one.

Catching Up

Its been awhile since I've posted anything and even longer since I've posted anything worthwhile. So, while I haven't been blogging, I have been reading. A lot. And I will be posting comments on what I've read over the next few days. Sorry it took so long, but I did warn you.

So between now and Thanksgiving, I'm gonna post reviews on all the books I've read while NOT blogging. And I'm gonna re-run a couple of my older reviews that never made it to my blog before. I may even polish 'em up a bit for new company (but probably not). Hope that keeps your juices flowing for awhile and gives you some ideas on what to read (and maybe what not to read).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The New Jack McDevitt...Isn't New

Cauldron by Jack McDevitt is the latest installment (and it looks like he is truly trying to make it the last) in the on-going saga of Priscilla Hutchins and exploring inter-galactic space; finding new or ancient cultures and how we, as humans, handle (or mishandle) them.

While the story is entertaining, it is the same story told again but without the intrigue. The mysteries are not quite so mysterious and the characters we have all met before, only with diffrent names. I'm thinking this novel was one the publisher pretty much said had to be written if any more checks were going to be coming from them.

That being said, McDevitt is still the master of cultural collision. What do cultures do when they share no experiences, no language and no history? Easy, they hurt each other, intentionally or not. Cauldron is no exception to McDevitt's exploration of alien encounters. Its fascinating to see the possibilities and embarassing to realize our shortcomings.

This one is a good read, fairly short, and entertaining enough that I finished it. Is is also formulaic and been done before. Or maybe I've just read too many of McDevitt's books. Its not worth a five star rating, so I'm giving it 3.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Greg Bear Does It Again!

If you've never read Greg Bear, you owe it to yourself to do so. I recommend that you give a bye to the sequels (i.e.; Darwin's Children), but his original stories are unbeatable for pure speculation that has the ring of truth to it. Quantico is no exception. It was chilling in its realism and its topic: Bio terrorism.

Quantico involves the FBI, and other federal agencies run amok in purely political power plays as partisan politics have stolen America's ability to protect itself. The agent primarily in charge of finding the source and offender(s) of 2001's "Amerithrax" incident is still looking for them 20 years later. But the circumstances surrounding this incident have become more complex than anyone can conceive and it almost impossible to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Bigots, agencies, presidents, militaries and terrorists around the world are played and playing in a game that can ultimately destroy humanity - but who wants it to happen and who wants to stop it?

The last 100 pages were not "put-downable" as the possibilities and probabilities reach their crescendo, the pace becomes break-neck and thrilling. I was too scared to put this down. It was THAT real. I haven't experienced this kind of heart-racing engagement in a novel since I read The Sum of All Fears 20 years ago. It should scare the haughtiness out of us and cause us to questions ourselves, our government and our goals as a society. This isn't an anti-war book - far from it. It IS an anti-hate book. Read this and do what I did...think about it.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Dresden - Wizard At Large

Ok, so Jim Butcher's books are being released as hardbacks (well, they were in November). So what if I was given a $25 gift card from Ebay? Should I have ordered Dresden File books? Probably not. There's so much to read out there, so little time....
However, keeping with the surge of graphic media becoming vastly popular (has anybody not seen The Dark Knight?) I thought I would see of these books were any good. I got copies of the first three in this still on-going series. So far, I've read the first.
And....ok, I liked it. I'll read the rest of them just to see how Harry does what it is he does. Its a one evening read, its definitelt comic book, and its overly black and white. The thing is that Harry lives in shades of gray. He knows that evil is evil and that anything that isn't evil is NOT necessarily good. But he lives in a world with people who expect black and white results. What's a wizard to do?
That's why I keep reading. I relate to Harry. You probably will, too. I'm not gonna rant and rave about the cultural impact of Harry Dresden, but I am gonna read some more of them. They're quick, they're fun and they piqued my interest. And they're a good reset between one VLN and the next. Read it if you're into that, don't if you're not. I am...and you might be surprised at how much your boss resembles some members of the White Council....or NeverNetherLand.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wow, I haven't posted in awhile....

...but I've been reading.

Time has become the second most precious commodity in my life. There is just never enough to accomplish everything that simply must be done, much less those things that simply need to be done. I am afraid that this blog is way down my list of things that I can spend time on. And its going to get worse. I work retail, so an econmoc downturn means that staff is cut, but expectations are raised. In January, I will become a step-grandfather to a grandson that will live in my house with his mother. I am still married to my most understanding wife and I have two other step-children who must get to school. sporting events, private trumpet and dance lessons, work, etc.

All that just to say my posts may become even more sporadic. I will try to make up for like of quantity with quality. And the next two posts are actually about books! Enjoy and I'll post when I can.

Finished at Last!

Ok, it took me the better part of a year, off and on, to read this. Its not particularly easy to read unless you have an interest in etymology. I have a newly expanded vocabulary and now know what words like clinquant mean.. (Look it up! I had to...) But after adding to my favorites (my collegiate dictionary didn't have the words I was looking for), I have fished the book.

And it was superb!!

This guy Donaldson, he can spin a grand and sweeping epic of a story. The Land is still wonderful with larger than life vistas and characters. Every emotion in the world is evoked in the reader. Revelstone, Andelain, The Staff of Law....they are still able to provoke visions of splendor and majesty. And the characters we love to hate and hate to love. This is a study in conflict and it involves the reader deeply.

The First and Second Chronicles were great, but the conflicts, while evident, were mostly expressed externally to Thomas Covenant. In the Last Chronicle, Linden's conflicts are expressed internally and evidenced externally. We see what she's feeling and how her decisions or lack thereof effect the other characters instead of how the characters decisions effect her. It is masterful story-telling by a master. It is, basically, a re-telling of the best anti-hero story ever told from an internal perspective, from the mind and priorities of the anti-hero.

At the end of the last book, Thomas Covenant had returned with Linden's adopted son and needed her help. In this book, we learn the true condition of her son, we find out who her friends are and who is not. There are the same old antagonists and some new ones. We meet the maker of the first Staff of Law, Beren One-Hand, in person. We are shown the limits of Law and why there is a need for wild magic.

Read This! Start now so you can finish by next Christmas!

Twilight - Ok, I Admit It...Its Good

*sigh* Once again my kids have dragged me into reading a book, and once again, its not bad. Make no mistake, Stephanie Meyer is not going to be compared with Hermann Melville or Issaac Asimov, but then again, she's probably made more money than both of them combined. This is perfect for its target market: teenage girls.

The hero is a major, major hottie, he's the most dangerous thing on the planet, and he's willing to change for the girl he loves. O-M-G! He's perfect! He drives a great car, even! And he rescues her from the bad just keeps getting better and better for our heroine.

I can see how this caught on. And, on top of that, its a truly original story told pretty dad-gummed well. Will I sit on the edge of my seat for the next one? No. But I'm over 40 and male. I wouldn't have done it for Elvis, either. Will I read the next books? Probably. Its, to me, (pardon the phrase) bubble-gum. Its entertaining, it doesn't take a lot of talent or effort to consume, and it tastes pretty good. I like a good easy read now and then.

Do I recommend it? Tough call. Are you a die-hard SF fan? This is NOT for you. Are you 13-20 and female? You will sigh a lot. Are you open to a good story with original characters that aren't too deep and have very uncomplicated emotional histories? You could read this. Do you like comic books? This is for you. I liked it. I did not love it, but then I wasn't supposed to.