Monday, November 7, 2011

Reading Journal, Fall 2011

Sometime this past summer, I put all of my books into storage... thinking that it wouldn't be in there long.

Boy, was I wrong. And then I've been busy. The last few months, I've read less than at any time in the last couple years. Shame on me.

Moving right along.

R. Scott Bakker, The Darkness that Comes Before (The Prince of Nothing), Book One.

From Amazon:

Strikingly original in its conception, ambitious in scope, with characters engrossingly nd vividly drawn, the first book in R. Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing series creates a remarkable world from whole cloth-its language and classes of people, its cities, religions, mysteries, taboos, and rituals-the kind of all-embracing universe Tolkien and Herbert created unforgettably in the epic fantasies The Lord of the Rings and Dune. It's a world scarred by an apocalyptic past, evoking a time both two thousand years past and two thousand years into the future, as untold thousands gather for a crusade. Among them, two men and two women are ensnared by a mysterious traveler, Anasûrimbor Kellhus-part warrior, part philosopher, part sorcerous, charismatic presence-from lands long thought dead. The Darkness That Comes Before is a history of this great holy war, and like all histories, the survivors write its conclusion.
This book took me about a month to read. Bakker is a graduate philosopher, and it's obvious within the first 50 pages that this is not a light read. That's not a criticism - it is what it is. The characterizations, story arcs, and world building were all quite entertaining, and adroitly executed. The prose and the thematic elements are very dense, however.

It's not a tale for everyone. I found myself thinking quite a bit of Steven Erikson when reading this, though Bakker's style is somewhat different. It's perfect, in my opinion, that Erikson did the cover blurb. Fans of Steven Erikson would absolutely love this first book of the Prince of Nothing series.

George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons.

From Amazon:

In the aftermath of a colossal battle, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance once again--beset by newly emerging threats from every direction. In the east, Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen, rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has three times three thousand enemies, and many have set out to find her. Yet, as they gather, one young man embarks upon his own quest for the queen, with an entirely different goal in mind.
To the north lies the mammoth Wall of ice and stone--a structure only as strong as those guarding it. There, Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, will face his greatest challenge yet. For he has powerful foes not only within the Watch but also beyond, in the land of the creatures of ice.
And from all corners, bitter conflicts soon reignite, intimate betrayals are perpetrated, and a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves, will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Some will fail, others will grow in the strength of darkness. But in a time of rising restlessness, the tides of destiny and politics will lead inevitably to the greatest dance of all. . . .
Dubbed “the American Tolkien” by Time magazine, George R. R. Martin has earned international acclaim for his monumental cycle of epic fantasy. Now the #1 New York Times bestselling author delivers the fifth book in his spellbinding landmark series--as both familiar faces and surprising new forces vie for a foothold in a fragmented empire.
Undoubtedly the most highly anticipated release of 2011, Martin's 5th installment in A Song of Ice and Fire finally brought us up to speed on all those characters missing from A Feast for Crows. More exciting, of course, with the debut of HBO's A Game of Thrones.

What can I say that hasn't been said? If you're this far along in the series, you're not going to quit reading it now. I think some of the reviews were generous, to be honest. But, in fairness, Martin's worst stuff is still much better than most of what's out there on the fantasy shelves.

Dragons has everything you've come to expect from Martin. Beautiful prose, story complexity, character growth and intrigue, and of course, realism, grittiness, grey morality, and death. It's amazing storytelling, and Martin is as good as people say he is.

However, for those who have been waiting years for this... the overall storyline hardly advances. Originally, he had meant to skip ahead five years in the story, and one of the reasons that he did not was because of the convergence of characters around Daenerys, the infamous Meerenese Knot. As a result, the pace within is glacial, and by the end of the book, barely anything has truly happened at all (and most of that takes place in the last 300 pages).

Some reviews were citing this as one of the best books in the series - I have to disagree. A Storm of Swords remains the strongest, without question. Dragons is on par with A Feast for Crows, in my opinion, and perhaps slightly better because the favored characters are present and the landscapes are more diverse.

The reality is ... it doesn't matter. You're going to read it if you've read this far. You're going to wonder and worry about who dies and who gains the throne, and what mischief Tyrion or Arya will get into. It could be years before book 6, but at least we have the HBO series to keep us entertained.

George R.R. Martin, Gardner Dozois, Songs of Love and Death: All Original Tales of Star Crossed Love

I've been picking at this one for months. It didn't resound with me as well as their other anthology, Warriors, did. I guess I was expecting more of a series of Shakespearean tragedies, and therein lies the flaw of an inexperienced author doing book reviews.

Love and tragedy go hand in hand in fiction, and this short story collection was poised to meet my ideas of how that should be. That's not to say the stories weren't good - they were excellent, if not unusual or unexpected. The Jim Butcher and Jacqueline Carey stories alone were worth the cover price of the books, juicy cherries for fans of their respective epic series.


That's all I've got for now. It's been a long while since I've posted about any of my reading experiences, and rather than procrastinate and postpone as I've been doing, it was time to just do it.

I've got some non-fiction sitting on my stack, (ancient Rome material, if you must know), but I feel the need for something lighter and I'm debating whether or not to read Charlaine Harris... or maybe you can suggest something?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comment.