Friday, February 17, 2012

Book # 6 - The Sleeping Dragon by Joel Rosenberg

This was sort of a trade off with Evan, you read my favourite 'universtiy students go into another world fantasy books and I'll read yours'. So he obliged me by reading the Fionavar Tapestry, and I'm now starting The Keepers of the Flame series with The Sleeping Dragon.

It should be noted that while I used to be an avid table top RPGer, I never really played D&D much. My group's genre of choice was mainly superheroes, and when we did move into fantasy, we used GURPS as our game system. But, even though I never played D&D much, I still have an understanding of the system and it's tropes.

Which is ultimately what drove me a little nuts about this book.

The central conceit of this series is that a group of college kids who get together for a weekly D&D game are somehow transported into their D&D world and inhabit their characters. While I have no problem with this idea (heck, it's fun), it was the... D&Dness of the world that I didn't like. Oh, you're coming into this city? What are your job descriptions? Your'e a warrior, you're a wizard and your'e a cleric? Great. And the replenishing of the spells and trying to get gold to go buy stuff... yeah, I know it's a staple, but I felt there was too much D&Dness and not enough world building. (although Evan assures me that's coming with the next book)

I also felt the characters were too insular. They didn't really interact with the world, it was still just a setting for them to move through. Which, considering they only wanted to get home, did make sense, but it made for a hollow world. I wanted something more epic I suppose.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I hated it or anything, but right now it felt a little shallow and I'm more than willing to move on if there is depth coming.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book # 5 - Bite Me by Christopher Moore.

I love Christopher Moore. He is irreverent, smart, funny and completely twisted sometimes. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal is also one of the most beautiful books I have ever read.

Bite Me is the third of Moore's vampire novels centering around Jody (vampire newbie), Tommy (Jody's boyfriend and even newer vampire newbie), Abby Normal (goth girl extrordinaire) and the crazy cast of the San Francisco they inhabit. There's a nice progression of character in the books (particularly Jody as she definitely embraces being a vampire), and a nice lack of progression (Abby is entrenched in being Abby). This time, they're up against vampire cats, which is just bizarre. I loved all the dog inner dialogue we get, and the Emperor remains one of my favourite characters.

I always find Moore's books a quick read, but not because they're fluffy, but mainly 'cause they're just so funny it's easy to plow right through them.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Book #4, Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik

This is the second book in the Termeraire series. It's a fine sequel; nothing spectacular, nothing horrible. Basically it boils down to Laurence, Temeraire and crew go to China as a delegate from the Chinese Emperor have returned to take Termeraire back to China since he's a valuable Celestial and those are usually only given to members of the Imperial family.

So there's a freaking long sea voyage (with assassination attempts, storms, feasts, and of course, a battle with a sea serpent). They get to China (where there's assassination attempts, court intreguie, feasts and lots and lots of dragons).

Novik's world building is interesting as she portrays China as a place where dragons are treated as citizens. They have freedom to do with as they please, they are taught to read and write, they have jobs and are paid for doing these jobs. Temeraire of course notices this freedom and wonders why dragons back in England do not enjoy the same.

So I'm assuming next book we're going to have some dragon emancipation or something.

Oh, and people give GRRM a hard time about the over description of what his characters are eating? Novik certainly goes for that time honoured fantasy tradition as well in this book too.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Book # 3: How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche.

I'm a Shakespeare groupie. Not only do I like (or love) reading his plays, but I've always been very interested in reading about them and about him. So I grabbed this book during my last trip to Stratford (Ontario) last summer as it looked fun.

It's... ok. Marche's ideas are sound; yes, Shakespeare introduced more words into the English language than any other writer before or since, yes he challenged social attitudes of the time with controversial characters such as Othello and Shylock, yes his plays were the basis for a lot of Freud's work... but the problem with this book is there's just not enough depth to any of these. You could (and there have been) entire books on their own written on these topics. And the problem is, I've already read quite a few books written on these various topics.

I admire Marche's passion for the subject, that comes through very obviously, but I can't get past how shallow this book is, especially as I know there's so much more depth. And some of the chapters, like the one on Tolstoy, while amusing, didn't really fit into the overall theme of this book.

Not to sound like a snob here, but this is a nice book for someone who'd like a nice introduction on the length and breadth of Shakespeare's influence and his life and his writings... but that's about it.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Oh dear. I didn't even do an end of year post this time round. I have been SO caught up in re-reading the Song of Ice and Fire extravaganza again that I really didn't read many new books last year.

So for first post of this year, I have two new books done:

Book #1 is His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

This is one of those books I kept hearing about, that it was pretty good and I should check it out, but I just never got around to doing so. However, finding the first three novels bundled together for my e-reader made finally reading it simple.

So, the story of Will Laurence and his dragon, Temeraire (question for anyone else, how would you say that? Silent e at the end, or pronounce it so it's more like Temer-airy? Just curious), British captain and dragon during the Napoleonic Wars.

Yes, this is Sharpe meets the Dragonriders of Pern, and as I like both those things, I liked this book too. The plots not overly complicated or anything, but Novik has created a nice, parallel world where dragons are common place and used for war, complete with combat crews aboard them. It's fun. She writes a nice battle sequence, and has managed to not make Temeraire too precious, which is definitely a good thing.

I'm glad I have a couple more of these to go through, they're pretty popcorny.

Book #2 is Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie.

This is the second book of Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy, so we're back with our main characters from The Blade Itself, but the nice thing here is that there's less introduction and the characters are knee deep in action this time round as the threat of the wars introduced in the first book explode here.

We follow Inquisitor Glokta (quite possibly an even more cynical character than Tyrion Lannister) to a doomed city as he tries to uncover a treasonous plot. Major, no sorry, Colonel West is far in the North trying to keep the ridiculous Union army from imploding on itself before they can meet the enemy in battle; and the strange group of Logen, Bayaz, Ferro, Jezal et all continue on their quest for a weapon of supposedly great power. So we have all the lovely trappings of a regular fantasy novel, but what Abercrombie does best is making these seemingly unlikeable characters quite likeable; as they grow on each other, they also grow on you. His dialogue is sharp and cynical itself, and in a lot of places, incredibly, darkly funny. This is some good stuff.