Whoops, falling behind again.
Book # 18 is another short story collection edited by GRRM, Rogues. It had stories from some of my favourites, Abercrombie, Rothfuss (I wasn't expecting to like his short story about Bast as much as I did, but I rather loved Bast running something like a black market for the nearby children) and of course, GRRM himself. Once again, GRRM's contribution was written as a historical account of the civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons. I'm enjoying getting a good handle on that time period in Westeros.
Book #19 was Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny. My dear husband picked this book up because an aborted attempt at making it a movie back in the 70s became the pre-production materials used by the CIA in the 'Canadian Caper' (aka Argo). The concept art was done by Jack Kirby, so yeah, in geek circles, this is big stuff. Now as we know, I'm not much of a sci-fi fan, but I'm trying very hard to branch out this year (...ok, this is really only my second attempt, but two is better than none!) so I decided I'd try it, especially since I've read other Zelazny (although I haven't got very far with his Amber stuff). Well. It took me a long time to realize that much of this book was actually told in flashback. heh. I'm not usually so narratively challenged, but I sure was here for some reason. The book follows Sam (aka Siddhartha, Buddha, Mahasamatman and another name I don't remember right now) in his attempts to defeat the fellow colonists he travelled with who have set themselves up as representations of various Hindu gods and are ruling (and kind of suppressing) the normal population. Now that I think about it, the book is nicely divided up into each of Sam's various attempts, but yeah, something about it I found confusing at the time. Overall, it was very interesting, and Zelazny parcelled out what was going on very well. I think my favourite of the stories was Sam becoming 'Buddha' and turning the assassin Kali had sent to kill him into his greatest disciple.
Book #20 is The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman. Need we say how much I was looking forward to this coming out? No? Yeah, I definitely was. Last we had seen Quentin Coldwater, he'd been kicked out of his beloved magical land Fillory and could never return. He was dealing 'ok' with this loss by returning to Brakebills as a teacher... but then he got fired from there too, and so strikes off on his own. The whole 'Magicians' trilogy was originally marketed as 'Harry Potter for grownups', but really, it's far more 'Narnia without all the Christian allegory for grownups'. The only true Harry Potter part is the school of Brakebills, because after that, it's pretty much all Narnia, all the time, and that is not a complaint, because damn do I love those books, heavy handed Christian allegories and all (which, for one who was raised in a very non-religious household, didn't see the Christian allegories until they were pointed out to her). Because while Quentin and friends went to a school to learn magic, Quentin didn't want to be Harry Potter, he wanted to be a Pevensie. He wanted to find his way into Fillory and have grand adventures and rule as a king there. And he did. The second book was a reflection of Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and Magician's Land is very much a fun-house mirror held up to The Last Battle. So much so that I want to re-read the Last Battle just so I can compare and contrast the apocalyptic descriptions better. Because that's what this is, the final race to save Fillory from reaching the end of it's lifespan. And it's a hell of a quest. The book does feel a tad disjointed and perhaps a little too... pat? And yet it worked for me. I love the techno babble of Grossman's magic system, and I loved all the familiar faces (it actually managed to make Janet slightly more interesting and less of 'stock bitch' character). And I loved how Quentin has, over the course of the books, grown up and is less of a prat. He's still not perfect, not by any means, but he's reached a level of self awareness where he is capable of seeing his own mistakes. And I loved how we see the psychological effects that Fillory had on those from our world who have journeyed there. And it's not always the nicest thing. That was something we never really got from the Narnia books; Peter and Susan seemed to take their ejection from Narnia not too badly (we only ever hear that Susan rejected it for 'bad' reasons, not that perhaps she did because she was hurt by being rejected by Narnia first), and that being in Narnia made the rest of them 'better'. That wasn't the case for Fillory and I liked that the fantasy aspect of it destroyed, because living in a fantasy isn't usually a good thing. Anyway, I could go on and on about this book (and the others), but suffice to say I really freaking enjoyed it.