Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Saturday, January 23, 2010
I saw this going around on Facebook and I had to repeat it here because I'm still laughing at it.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Over at Of Blog of the Fallen, Larry issued a challenge to read a book written before 1960 and give a review. I thought this was a great idea and began to scour my shelf for some older stuff, but kept finding books from the ‘70s and almost gave up until I found Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke.
Like the only other Clarke novel I’ve read, Rendezvous with Rama, even though Childhood’s End was written decades ago (and in this case over half a century), Clarke has the amazing ability to create a future that is still believable and just as interesting as I’m sure it was when it was first written.
Earth is on the cusp of entering into space, when space comes to earth. Out of nowhere come what the people of Earth begin to call the “Overlords”. People quickly learn that nothing can be done about them and the fact that everyone is subject to their will. This, however, is not necessarily a bad thing. Immediately, the standard of living goes up, wars stop, and people have much more free time (the average work week even shortens to 20 hours a week).
Thus enters the first ethical dilemma; is it better to be free or live in a world where peace and prosperity abound? Most of the world accepts the rule, though they really have no choice in the matter, while a few factions continue to fight for freedom. Add to this the fact that the Overlords refuse to divulge their intent and only refer to themselves as guardians of the human race.
I have to say I enjoyed Childhood’s End from start to finish. The story evolves quite a bit and the ending half of the book is much different than the beginning while losing nothing of the story. I do have to warn you not to read the blurb on the back of the book (at least my 1978 printing) because it gives away some events that don’t even occur until the end, which I was waiting to happen from the beginning.
Who should read this?
If you are in the mood for a philosophical novel that doesn’t seem so at first glance, Childhood’s End might be for you. This is a quick read with a surprisingly interesting end.
3/5 Stars for the Cover
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Book 1 in a trilogy, 7th Son started out as a podcast series (found here) and is boasted as the most popular one in history. Now, they are being published by St. Martin’s Griffin.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before and this probably won’t be the last time either, but there is a lot to be said about the readability of a novel. J.C. Hutchins’ 7th Son: Descent was a very readable novel. It had me going from the very first page and had me interested until the last. That doesn’t mean it didn’t have its flaws, but 7th Son: Descent was a fun read throughout.
A four-year-old murders the President of the United States and people are scrambling for answers. How could a 4-year-old do such a thing? The government has some ideas, but likes to keep its secrets under wraps. Thus brings together 7 people who happen to look very similar to stop a killer in a murderous conspiracy that directly involves each of them.
Hutchins’ book reads like a movie almost at times and this has its benefits as well as detriments. While adding to the readability, it would also make the bad guys read like James Bond villains, which the book ironically refers to as well.
It made the characters seem a little overdramatic when the villains were doing some seriously bad stuff. I also thought the 7 “brothers” were going to shout “Go Team!” at times and because of this movie-esque feeling, I felt it took away from seriousness of the situation.
Mostly self-contained, 7th Son: Descent delivers an exciting finale that left me a little disappointed. It seems like it is mostly a set-up for what’s to come in the further installments, which leaves me excited to read (or listen to) the rest of the trilogy.
One last gripe, I promise, but there seemed to be an unnecessary amount of profanity. I may delve into this at another point on the blog, but I really feel like this dumbs down a novel and I’m just not a fan.
Who should read this?
If you’re in the mood for a fun, fast-paced novel you may want to give this a go. It was filled with conspiracy theories and technology that was both interesting and believable.
3.5/5 Stars for the Cover Art
Monday, January 18, 2010
Friday, January 15, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Not only am I eagerly awaiting the final volume of The Malazan Book of the Fallen in The Crippled God later this year, but I'm excited to see the new novella Crack'd Pot Trail. Actually published at the end of 2009, this will continue the story of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, who had a little bit of face time in the third installment of the series, Memories of Ice.
I was highly impressed with Scott Lynch's debut, The Lies of Locke Lamora, which I read last year and after some set backs and personal problems, the buzz around the blogging world is that the third installment of the series, The Republic of Thieves, is due out some time this year. Fingers crossed.
After some delays through the past few years, the sequel to The Name of the Wind is in the works to come out this year. Yes, it seems to be the trend to be unsure of release dates, and yes, I haven't even read The Name of the Wind (though it's sitting on my shelf), but it's had such a great reception by critics and fans of the genre alike that I've jumped on the band wagon.
Another author I have yet to read, but who's also made quite a splash is Brent Weeks. After his successful Night Angel Trilogy, he's got another coming out this year with The Black Prism. There's a summary floating around out there, but the author's not happy with it and I don't think it's too accurate so I won't even bother posting it here. Publication is set for August 10, 2010. (Yay, a firm date!)
Blake Charlton's Spellwright has been making some waves in the blogoverse and I'm really excited to check this out. There's already a review up at A Dribble of Ink even though the publication date is set for March 2, 2010.
What list would be complete without mentioning George R. R. Martin's epic masterpiece, A Song of Ice and Fire. Random House lists the release date as September 28, 2010. As we've learned in the past, these dates from the publisher can be trusted about as far as you can throw them, but they make a nice security blanket.
Some others that are possibilities:
The Way of Kings - Book 1 in The Stormlight Archive, by Brandon Sanderson
Towers of Midnight - Book 13 in The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Moving on to 2011, we should see the next in Joe Abercrombie's arsenal, The Heroes, set for February of the same year (see Pat's interview). I thoroughly enjoyed his First Law Trilogy and last year's Best Served Cold has been topping quite a few "Best of" lists for 2009.
Hopefully you're now as excited as I am. I wouldn't hold my breath for all of these to happen, but there's a good chance that we'll see quite a few out this year.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Not all books that I’ve read can I pick up and immediately become engrossed in the story again and again. Many books can take a couple paragraphs or even pages to figure out what is going on or where I’m at. That was not the case in reading A Shadow in Summer. This book sucked me in almost from the very beginning and I can’t wait to read the next in the series, A Betrayal in Winter.
The story begins with Otah Machi, a student at a school that is anything but what it seems. Everything is a test for the students and studying letters and numbers is only a useless exercise; the real purpose of the school is to begin the training of poets to handle the andats. Andats are powers made flesh and poets are the men who can control them, forcing them to do their bidding in the name of the empire of the Khaiem.
Book 1 in The Long Price Quartet
Mmpb – 356 pages
Publisher – Tor
Publication Date - 2006
Abraham does a wonderful job creating a world ruled by the Khaiem through the use of the andats, both recognizable and foreign. The world becomes that much more its own through the culture of the Khaiem, which is governed by poses and movements that each person uses to express feelings such as gratitude, sorrow, or even greeting. If you’ve learned or speak a foreign language, the nuances of respect and affection that are added to names will also feel similar while forming a realistic, yet believable world all its own.
This is not a novel that is full of swords and fighting, but spins a tale of political intrigue that keeps a fast and engaging pace. While tackling adult material such as whorehouses and slavery, I was impressed that Abraham can express a scene with deep emotional impact while refraining from going into graphic detail or foul language.
Who should read this?
This is recommended to anyone and everyone. If you are in the mood for a fully-realized world full of rich characters that are flawed as much as you and me, but who are ready to make the tough decisions, you are in for a treat. Amazingly, this is Daniel Abraham’s first published novel and quite impressive at that.
4.5/5 Stars for the Cover Art
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Friday, January 8, 2010
This is the story of John Agyar, who recently moved into an abandoned home that happens to also be haunted by a ghost named Jim. Agyar finds a "typewriting machine" as he calls it and the entire book is written as a journal that Agyar keeps on this machine.
Publisher - Tor
I didn't really get into the story until about 90 or so page in, but I was still interested enough to keep going. About this time, Agyar begins to get more and more creepy and I started to wonder about what was really going on. I promised no major spoilers, so I'll stop there. Suffice it to say, it should keep you reading.
Who should read this?
If you're in the mood for something different as well as something short and entirely self-contained, this may be for you. I enjoyed the story, even though the beginning dragged a bit for me and I would definitely recommend it.
3/5 Cover Art
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Sapkowski is one of the best known fantasy writers in Poland and it's sad because it seems like there are some things that were lost in the translation into English. The dialogue sounds like the characters are overacting and that's about as close as I can come to describing it. The way the monsters interacted with the Witcher just didn't seem real, even for the world that was created.
mmpb - 359 pages
Publisher - Orbit
Who should read this?
If you're in the mood for something really fast-paced and light with very little world-building, this may be right up your alley. This also happens to be the book that inspired the video game The Witcher, so that might be another reason. Otherwise, it may not be for you.
4.5/5 Cover Art
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Since then, Matt's never lead me astray, having recommended such great authors as Kurt Vonnegut, George R. R. Martin, John Marco, and the list goes on. In other words, you're in good hands with any recommendation he makes.
Without further ado, here's Matt's review of The Hunger Games.
I've been hearing about Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for some time as it has slowly built a buzz based on it's strong young adult fanbase. My Mom and my younger brother had both read it and loved it and have been nagging me to read it but I had other things on my plate at the time. At Christmas they made that final and all important recommendation of just buying the book for me. I read it in a day. The setting for the story is a post-apocalyptic North America and civilization is currently under the iron fist of the 'Capitol', a strong central government which is located somewhere in the Rockies. It is written in the mold of a classic dystopian novel with the struggle of the protagonist giving us a microcosm of the larger struggle against the establishment. The protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is a teenage girl who has raised her family after the death of her father. She is forced to participate in the Hunger Games, a yearly event in which one male and one female representative from each of the 12 Districts under the Capitol's control are forced to fight to the death. What follows is a violent depiction of her struggle to survive; both physically in the arena, and mentally in the larger sphere of humanity. As Katniss fights against the Capitols yearly reminder of its control over the populace, she finds herself unintentionally becoming a symbol of resistance outside of the arena.
Hunger Games is very simply written. To add a little perspective, Twilight author Stephanie Meyer wrote one of the recommendations on the back jacket. As far as writing level goes Hunger Games does hover above Twilight, but not by much. However, it is void of some of the more mindless melodrama that Meyer's books are so riddled with; and the short, almost flat sentence structure that Collins' adopts in the Hunger Games lends itself well to the harsh and brutal story. It is done without the artistry and poetry of Cormac McCarthy but does achieve a similar effect in increasing the emotional impact by showing more than telling. Hunger Games has some flashes of real creativity, especially when Collins takes us to the Capitol and seems to have a blast showing us the decadence of the ruling class and the contrasting their unique interests and pursuits with the day to day drudgery we see in District 12 earlier. In the end though, Hunger Games is more of a page turner than a thought provoker. While you can't stop reading because you have to know how Katniss escapes whatever new crisis comes her way, when the book is done there's nothing to reflect upon but a trail of corpses.
Who should read this?
This is a great book to read if you're in a long series and needing something to hold you over until the next release or are in the airport waiting for your flight. It's an fast-paced, enjoyable adventure and doesn't need any time investment from the reader. Lion's Gate has already acquired the rights to the movie and production is set to begin next year. Since the book is basically a screenplay, if you don't have time for the book you can always catch the movie.
4/5 stars for the cover art
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
In the version I read, there was an introduction by John Scalzi who compares The Forever War to his own novel, Old Man's War. I can definitely see the comparisons, but I even enjoyed Scalzi's novel a bit better.
Trade Paperback - 265 pages
Okay, enough with the comparisons, I did actually like this book, so I'll get into the good stuff. Throughout the novel, Haldeman plays with the theory of relativity and time dilation. So, the main protagonist, William Mandella, becomes an old man of two or three hundred years old at the actual age of 25. Or is that switched. Anyway, his body is a 25 year old's. This is always interesting and Orson Scott Card plays around with this in his Ender's Game series too.
Because of this time dilation that's going on, the earth is going through many changes while Mandella is away. The portrayal of earth was done really well throughout the book. One time Mandella returns home to find earth to be a far different place than he remembers it. Food is running out and crime has become such a problem that people need body guards or at least a high powered gun if they go anyware. This causes Mandella and the rest of the company that returned home to earth to get back into the military, where there's at least some stability.
I had just a minor quibble with the way Mandella and his love interest, Potter, came together. It just didn't seem to real to me. They were not very friendly with each other and suddenly they couldn't be apart. Anyway, this wasn't a huge deal, and it still works fine for the story.
Who should read this? If you're in the mood for a war story that shows how pointless everything about war is, this is for you. It definitely doesn't celebrate war like many sci-fi and fantasy novels tend to do. This was a good story, but I didn't think it lived up to the hype and that may be it's biggest fault.
5/5 stars for the cover art
Rating explanation: As the rating system to the right shows, I liked The Forever War a lot, just not enough to love it.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Read in 2009: 41
Books read over 1000 pages: 3
Books read 500 to 1000 pages: 8
Biggest surprises: The Man Who Was Thursday and Revenge of the Sith
I never thought I would ever enjoy a novelization of a movie, but Revenge of the Sith was amazing. I now own Heroes Die by Matthew Stover because this guy has a way with words.
I did a reread of the Lord of the Rings trilogy on audiobook. Rob Ingles was the narrator and it was really well done; he even sings all the songs and poems in the books.
Most read publisher: Tor with 10 books
Couldn’t finish: 3
I got 300 pages into The Stand by Stephen King and had to put it down. I didn't like any of the characters but maybe one and the story dragged. I still don't get the hubbub. I also own three more Stephen King books in the Dark Tower series, so we'll see if I ever get to them.
Book blog contests won: 6
Dust of Dreams, by Steven Erikson - Ubiquitous Absence
The Gathering Storm, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson - Only the Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Bauchelain and Korbal Broach (novellas in the Malazan series), by Erikson - Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
7th Son: Descent, by J.C. Hutchins- Graeme's Fantasy Book Review
The Magicians, by Lev Grossman - SFF Chat
Malice, by Chris Wooding - SciFiGuy
"Short" stories read: 2
These "short" stories were each over 100 pages, so not extremely short, but not enough to count in the books read category. Both were in Dreamsongs by George R. R. Martin: The Hedge Knight, and The Skin Trade. The Hedge Knight is a novella in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, which is one of my favorite series and The Skin Trade was a little fun reading I had for Halloween since it was about werewolves.
Audio books: 11
My Top Ten of 2009:
1. Memories of Ice – Erikson
2. Starship Troopers – Heinlein
3. The Lies of Locke Lamora – Lynch
4. Revenge of the Sith – Stover
5. The Bonehunters – Erikson
6. Dune – Herbert
7. Warbreaker – Sanderson
8. Midnight Tides – Erikson
9. Night of Knives – Esslemont
10. The Man Who Was Thursday - Chesterton
This is my attempt to put these books in order from my favorite to lesser favorites, but it was so close that it's really almost impossible to say I liked any a lot more than the others. The difference is really negligible. Lord of the Rings would definitely be on here, but I didn't count rereads. These are all rated 5 stars, so go to town.
This was really fun to do and I am probably the biggest fan of lists that you'll ever meet. It's the economist in me that does it. If you can think of anything more to add, please say so. Have a great year in reading!
Saturday, January 2, 2010
I didn't have a lot of time for reading, but I did get The Forever War finished, so I'll have a review up for that soon along with some other updates in the next few days. I have to get in as much fun stuff as I can before Law school starts up again. :)
Have a great weekend!