Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Um, I read books

Here's some that I've tackled lately and not-so-lately...

Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton. In the world of dragons, it is a tradition for family members to eat the dead body of their parents when they've passed. Unfortunately for Bon Agornin's children, Illustrious Daverak, a greedy son-in-law, eats more than he was allowed. This is most upsetting, and eventually the dragon will be taken to court for compensation. Then there's a lot--and I do mean a lot--of drama concerning blushing dragons and the acquiring of gold, gold, gold. Politics get in the way, as is to be expected, and there's even some romance amongst the great creatures of lore. Though the book is somewhat based off Anthony Trollope's Victorian novels, there isn't much else out there like it. Fun, original, and interesting non-human characters make this a must-read. Alas, the book is out of print at the moment, I believe.

Scar Night by Alan Campbell. Deepgate, a magical city that hangs over a great abyss, is nothing at all like the kid-friendly Sanctaphrax in The Edge Chronicles series by Paul Stewart. So the book deals with a slew of characters: boy-angel Gill, the crazed Carnival, the poisoner Devon, Presbyter Sypes, Mr. Nettle, the assassin Rachel, and many others. The plot boils down to a race to stop Devon from creating angelwine, a potent drink that grants longevity. Well, Mr. Nettle really only wants to kill Carnival ever since his little daughter was bled dry as a sacrifice. The city is beautifully created, and the characters, while not too deep, all have their personalities which make them interesting. Actually, no. Gill is kind of boring, very passive, very emo sitting alone in his tower room hanging out with a bunch of snails. The book is fast-paced, with some epic scenes, but I was very disappointed to discover it was not a standalone. Spoiler alert, spoiler alert...the ending is a doozy of a cliffhanger. Kind of annoying.

The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) by Joe Abercrombie. Ah, epic fantasy. You bloated bastard. Unlike its uncles and great-grandfathers (George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, and Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series), Abercrombie's book moves blindingly fast. This is thanks to characters such as Logen Ninefingers, a brute of a savage, and Glokta, a once favored swordsman crippled into a twisted thorn. Both end up employed for the Union, and some adventures happen and people are tortured and a couple of magic spells are cast. You know the drill by now. Also, total cliffhanger ending a la Scar Night, but not as upsetting. It's grisly sword-and-sorcery, with all the staples that come with the genre, but Abercrombie does have a craft for creating engaging dialog and sympathetic characters, and it is for every single one of them that I'll be picking up the second book in the series when it is released. I do, however, hope some of the amateurish writing improves. I can only take so many "Arrrgh!" he grunted moments.

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult. Small New England town mysteries, teenage witches, a focus on rape, court room drama, and characters that make you want to dive into the pages and help them out...just because. Jack St. Bride has just been released from prison after pleading guilty to a charge of rape. He quickly takes shelter in the quiet town of Salem Falls, hoping to start anew. But within a matter of weeks, he stumbles upon a campfire in the woods where naked teenage girls are dancing for the moon, and finds himself in a whole new mess of trouble. It's a moving read, both in pace and its emotional grip, and I've found Picoult's writing to be the sort of thing that one can ease into without any trouble. Sure, some of her happenings feel a bit too convenient, and the twist at the end sort of came out of nowhere, but otherwise Salem Falls is an engaging piece that questions society on a dozen different levels, focusing on reputation and fear, and allowing the reader to judge for themselves what qualities actually make a monster.

The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia. I was lucky enough to read this before it was released, and I've been wanting to talk about it for awhile, but...sometimes it takes time to let these things sink in. Structurally, the book is different from what I normally read. The focus, one might say, is on the woman Galina, who witnessed her recently pregnant sister turn into a jackdaw and fly away. She sets out to find Masha and the reason why this has happened. Along the way, Yakov, a quiet police detective trying to figure his shit out, joins her in the pursuit for answers. What they discover is a world beneath Moscow, a hidden place, where people hide and creatures of Russian folklore flourish. Sort of like how I enjoyed the historic legends and tales more than the true plot in Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, I found the characters Galina meets underground, along with their pasts, far more intriguing than anything else in The Secret History of Moscow. Go, Father Frost! Still, the culmination of Galina's search is downright heartbreaking, making this the book that has stuck with me the hardest so far in 2007.

Er, I'm sure there's other books I've read and haven't commented on. I'll have to scan my shelves later and see which ones I'm forgetting.


TK42ONE said...


I think I'll have to wait until Christmas to read the Blade. until then, I have plenty to keep me company.

- Havoc by Jack DuBrul
- the last 2 or 3 books in the Legacy of the Force series
- and some other book I can't bloody remember Arghh!

Daniel Ausema said...

I could not get into Scar Night at all. I wanted to like it--the concept behind the city if very cool, and if there's one thing that's likely to get me intrigued, it's a fascinating setting. But I think it was how boring Gill was plus when the author went for anything more interesting, it was bad comic-book-y interesting (or that's how it felt to me).

Great mention of the Edge Chronicles--what I read of those were lots of fun.

Secret History of Moscow has been popping up on my radar from all over, so I'll have to keep an eye out for it.

BTW, just got my copy of Sporty Spec and enjoyed your story.

Paul Abbamondi said...

TK: The Blade Itself is very heavy on action, so if that's your cup of tea then you'll probably like a lot about it. The only Star Wars books I have on my shelf are old ones by Timothy Zahn.

Daniel: I really enjoyed the Edge Chronicles and am glad I've got to read them before they get picked up as the "next big thing" or whatever. Thanks for liking me little story! It appreciates the read! :P