Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Great Big Tuesday Post of Postiness, 11/2/10

So, the weekend really didn't happen - I graded papers, and I dealt with trick or treaters, and so I did not review books. But I did READ books, and so here are some reviews.

S.M. Stirling - The High King of Montival

This is the most recent addition to Stirling's novels of The Change, which are now up to 7 or 8, I believe. Stirling has crafted a fascinating post-apocalyptic setting, and it is clear that he's really thought about how that world will affect his characters. I like that. After the first trilogy, Stirling really veers off into fantasy - he's writing a Tolkien inspired fantasy in a post-apocalyptic setting, and that's fantastic. So I like that too (although I gather that some of his readers preferred the hard-headed science of the first trilogy, which is also excellent.) What is clear, at least to me, is that Stirling has some idea of where the story will end, but not a great idea of how long it will take to get there - this novel and the previous novel both seem to begin as series ending novels, but have not ended the series by the time you get to the end of the book - there's just too much to include, a little more detail, one more group of people who have survived the apocalypse, and so we don't quite get to the cataclysmic battle between the iconic forces of good and evil. I expect that will be in the next book, which should finish the series. I hope so, actually, because The Sword of the Lady is the sort of thing that, if allowed to exist beyond two books, will seriously spoil things.

This book also broadens some discussion of the nature of stories. At several points, the characters wonder who's story they are in - is it Rudi's story, or is Rudi part of their story? Rudi points out that it depends on who is telling the story.

Three final thoughts. First, having finished this book, I've gone back and grabbed the first book to reacquaint myself with the characters. Second, this whole series cries out for fan-fic - what's happening elsewhere on the continent, in the world? (I gather that there is a community of fan-ficcers, actually). Third, have I mentioned that I  dislike the fact that Stirling writes accents? He's consistent about it, but it's a little annoying - it's like at some point it was suggested that characters with accents were more memorable than those without. I don't know, if he didn't write the accents, perhaps I would be annoyed by his saying "and, in a deep brogue, the character said, etc etc".

Jane Lindskold - The Buried Pyramid

Lindskold has written a brilliant Victorian travel romance about a young lady and her uncle travelling in Egypt, hunting a lost pyramid. And it's brilliant. And, Lindskold has written a lovely short story about a group of Victorian travelers participating in Ra's transit of the night sky and the ritual of weighing the souls of the dead. And that's brilliant. Combined, there is a minor loss of brilliance - neither aspect of the story needs the other, and the sudden shift into fairly heavy fantasy right at the end of the book feels artificial. You can see the joins between the stories.

Look, the book is fantastic. The characters are amazing, and Lindskold's description of them is excellent. The aura of mystery and threat throughout is good too, and Lindskold's exploration of Victorian era travelers in Egypt is delicious. It just feels like one of two things happened - either someone at Tor said "ok, that's great, but we publish Fantasy and Science Fiction, and this is neither, add something.", or Lindskold had this plot bunny about helping out Ra, and the rest of this was back story. I'm certainly not saying don't read the book - read this book, because it's good - I'm just saying take a deep breath around chapter 20 or so, put the book down, and come back to it as if it were a different book entirely, with the same characters. That's all.

Philip Reeve - Fever Crumb

This book sort of ties the previous two books together, in a way. It's a post-apocalyptic novel (distantly post-apocalyptic; the apocalypse happened several generations back) AND it's got a strong Victorian sensibility to it. I think this is intended to be a distant prequel to Reeve's Hungry City Chronicles. I really liked the book, I liked the steam-punkish elements, I liked the characters. It was the perfect book for a distracted Halloween night - not because it was scary, but because the plot was fairly simple, so it was difficult to lose track of where things were going. That was nice. So, I guess what I'm saying is, judging this book by it's cover was a good idea.


In addition to reviews, you ALSO get a Monday Library Post, free!

S.M. Stirling - Dies the Fire

This is the first book of the Novels of the Change series, because I wanted to go back and take another look at it.

Cherie Priest - Dreadnought

This is Priest's second novel of The Clockwork Century - it's a steampunk world centered on the US Civil War. The first one, Boneshaker, also involved zombies. I enjoyed it moderately, and so when I saw this available, I ordered it.

Mark Keating - The Pirate Devlin

It's a pirate novel! Set during the Napoleonic wars. Oooo, swashbuckle-y!