Thursday, March 29, 2012

In Which Our Intrepid Commander takes a Vacation

Book # 11 - Snuff by Terry Pratchett

Of all Pratchett's Discworld novels, the ones about the Ankh-Morpork Watch have become my favourites, mainly on the strength of Commander Sam Vimes.

In Snuff, Sam has been forced by his aristocratic wife, Lady Sybil, to go on vacation. But in the tradition of all great police officers, private detectives and superheroes, of course Vimes stumbles across a body and a mystery in the quiet countryside.

For all their... popcornness (and I mean this in the sense that they can be consumed quickly and are a hell of a lot of fun), Pratchett's books also tackle some pretty good, hefty topics. In this one he turns to race relations again (as he has in past books such as Feet of Clay and Thud!), this time shedding light on goblins, a Discworld-wide maligned species who live in holes, steal, smell bad and whose 'religion' centers around the collection and storing of bodily fluids. But of course, in typical Pratchett tradition, there is much, much more to goblins than anyone thought.

And that's also part of the beauty of Pratchett's books; his creations are beautifully intricate and deep and different from one another, and yet share commonality in that they all are beautifully intricate and deep. I admire Pratchett's world building a hell of a lot.

But of course, it's all the little touches too, and the familiar characters; Willikins the faithful manservant, Young Sam's typical 6-year old boy preoccupation with all things poo, Captain Carrot and the rest of the gang, it's all good.

And of course there are footnotes. Nobody footnotes like Pratchett.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Book #10 The Silver Crown by Joel Rosenberg

The third book of the Guardians of the Flame series, we pick up with Karl Cullinane and his friends from our world back in their D&D world. Some time has passed again (Karl and Andrea's kid is now 6) and their sanctuary valley is thriving. As is all the weapon producing and whatnot. The look into the political structure of Home as they call it, was interesting and I think I actually wanted to stay there longer. Once we got back on the road and fighting slavers again... I kinda lost some interest.

It might just be that I never really developed much affection for Karl as a main character. We were in his head too much and yet, I still didn't really feel like he was really saying all that much. I can't fully explain it. It's horrible but I even found myself hoping that Karl would die at the end; that would've been interesting :)

There's some grand ideas in these books, but I still feel like they're just not fleshed out enough.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Book #9 - Nine Princes of Amber by Roger Zelazny

This is one of those 'classics' of fantastic literature that I somehow never managed to read. It's not that I didn't know about it... it's just that I kinda kept forgetting about it, or forgetting to attempt to go find or something. It wasn't until a timely happenstance of a friend mentioning them and then my finding a huge tome of books 1-10 for a ridiculously cheap price that I decided to read this.

This is the story of the royal family of the city of Amber, as told by one of it's exiled princes, Corwin. The first person narrative is used very well here, since we first meet Corwin on waking from an accident and he remembers of nothing of who he is. So it's nice that Corwin gets caught up and tells the reader what the hell is going on as well.

I liked a lot of things about this book, I've always been fond of the 'this is the first world/city/whathave you reflected imperfectly in other worlds' idea. And the method of travelling to Amber is quite brilliant. (the whole drive Corwin takes with his brother Random was superb).

But there were times where I would get disgruntled with Zelazny's lack of description in some parts (mainly the battle to get to Amber) I appreciated why he did it (else most of this book would've been battle scenes), but it robbed the book of a lot of it's gravitas, especially as I never get the idea Corwin is truly in grave danger. In some ways I felt like I was reading Ernest Hemingway write a fantasy story (albeit with 70s jargon thrown in; I find it disconcerting to have my fantasy characters ask if I 'dig').

This one ends with Corwin escaping his long imprisonment from his brother with the help of someone even longer imprisoned. It asks some interesting questions and sets up things well. I'll continue on.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Book 7 - Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie and Book 8 - The Sword and the Chain by Joel Rosenberg

Last Argument of Kings

I've reached the end of Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy and I must say I'm a little sad it's over. Not only because it ends on a literal cliffhanger (just as it started with one), but because I immensely enjoyed these books. And the characters. Abercrombie did a very find job of changing your perceptions about his main characters and then, in some cases, changing them again. And yet, I didn't feel I was being manipulated at all, these changes are a natural progression.

So this book starts with our adventures back in the capital city of Adua, which is going to be very, very invaded very, very soon. There's still a lot of travelling to be done by everyone, and death and destruction and one of the greatest holding out against an overwhelming siege scenarios since The Two Towers. Well, at least I thought so.

Things don't end well for a lot of the characters, or are left up in the air or whatever. I don't know if this points towards sequels in the future, but I wouldn't mind because I really liked Abercrombie's cynical, darkly humourous style of writing.

The Sword and the Chain

Book two in the Guardians of the Flame series. There is definitely more world building going on here but I'm still left with the idea of wanting... more. There's still not the depth I'd like and I'm still having a hard time connecting to characters, the world, motivations etc. What they're trying to do is all very well and good, but... it's not working for me.

Some things are assigned more weight than they should be, while other things... no. When a minor character gets killed, the main character Karl gives him such an overblown eulogy that I was completely reminded of Walter's final word's for Donny in the Big Lebowski. And I doubt that's what I should've been left with.

And Karl's reunion with Andy at the end also bugged the hell out of me. Ellegon had it right 'you humans are always making things more complicated...' When the author has one of his own characters pointing out the flaw in what he's writing... I don't think that's good.

The inclusion of some sort of Arthurian connection didn't really do much for me either I'm afraid.

I'll continue onto the next book that I was given, but then I'm definitely out.

(An aside: Talking about this book with Evan led to the beginning of an interesting conversation where we thought about books that we read and loved when we were younger that just don't stand up now. Same with authors. My teenaged self adored Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern stuff, and I still enjoy the first 3, but I also see a whole lot of problems with them that I didn't see as a teenager. In non-fantasy work though, I first discovered one of my all time favourite authors, Alice Munro, when I was 17 and I still read and love her work.)