Friday, May 22, 2009

Slow going

Man, the book I'm reading is slow going. That's not a criticism, it's just huge and the process of assimilation has taken me a little while.


Just jumping into sci-fi, by Peter Hamilton no less, was probably going to be a little more time intensive that previously anticipated.

While obviously sci-fi (space opera to be specific), I detect a dash of horror involved as well. While I am currently only 400p into book one, I think that I have, perhaps, finally absorbed enough of the story's layout to proceed.

It seems as though there are several disparate elements drawing together to converge at a common locus. I enjoy that; it seems ordered and symmetrical to me. The characters however, seem fairly similar. I observe two main categories of characters: actors and hopeless. One group drives the storyline, is beautiful and is having sex every six hours or so. The other has the storyline riding right over the top of them and bears some kind of burden they can't process which makes them, well, hopeless. We'll see how it progresses.

Incidentally, I would have really enjoyed Quinn Dexter and all of his merry little Ivets getting the Tony Montana treatment.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Arrived

I love when new books arrive in the mail (FedEx & UPS are good, too). Today I received Conqueror's Moon, book 1 in the Boreal Moon Tale, by Julian May. It's a recommendation from a very trusted source and I've finally got around to ordering the series to read. Like any other reader of sf&f, I'm a sucker for a great cover. This one was nice, so I wanted to share it on site. It isn't nearly as nice on screen, as up close. Proximal scrutiny reveals incredible detail and scale of the habitations in the valley beyond the armed crowd in the foreground. One day, hopefully soon, I'll review it.


Currently, I'm doing something I've not done in approximately 20 years: reading sci-fi. I solicited, and was given, some great sci-fi recommendations over on the forums at sffworld. As a result of the recommendations, and their respondents, I've decided to go with Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy. I'm only 150p into The Reality Dysfunction, but will be back soon enough with a review.

Off to the weekend and my birthday. That's right!! 'Ole Pedro, kickin' like a chicken.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Took a flyer

I just finished reading The Fall of Ossard, by Colin Taber. The book itself I saw in a post over at the sffworld forums. It was posted by someone whom I have been on parallel reading paths with in the past, and found his preferences and reviews similar to my own (Gilgamesh, this one's for you).


First, let's get criticisms out of the way. I prefer things that way, because I'd really rather focus on the positive, because...well...it's supposed to be fun. Anyway, there was a serious lack of editing. Words were misused, mispelled, lack of punctuation and even missing spaces between words. As an example, there was dialogue missing parantheses and the words thankyou consistently missing a space in beween throughout the book. Also, an editor could have kept the author far more accountable on the storyline. There was a bit too much repetition of certain items. For instance, a great deal of time saw the main character's constant and, largely, fruitless forays into a city beset with turmoil and violence in an effort to find and rescue her in-laws, husband and daughter.

That out of the way, I am big on the upside of the story and, thus, author. I see great potential for it. The characterization isn't great, but shows glimpses of promise. The main character's POV dominates the story, and is vaguely reminiscient of Parksenarrion (Elizabeth Moon). The magic involved, while not elaborated upon enough for this reader, has multiple disciplines. At it's core, the magic system is understandable and plausible. Like Erikson and Esslemont's Malazan Book of the Fallen, there is a developing cast of characters possessed of metaphysical/divine properties and characteristics. While there is a map included, the story clearly takes place in a single city-state. In referencing the map, it is quite clear that there is a vast world beyond the pages of this initial installment. Taber has left a great deal of room, geographically speaking, to further develop the story, races, culture and histories.

The title page states, "Book One, The Ossard Trilogy." Given the ingredients thus far, I'm not sure I would've limited it to a trilogy. Then again, there is always a great deal of carping about long, seemingly never ending series. Yeah, yeah, some of the people, some of the time.....whatever. With the refinement that a serious editing job could do, this book would have been a great surprise, instead of a good one. I will keep an eye out for future additions to this trilogy and am interested to see what becomes of this series and Colin Taber.

Bittersweet



Having finished The First Law Trilogy, I am a little sad. Oh, I know there are further installments on the way, but this particular story ended in bittersweet fashion. That is to say that, in many ways, it ended just as it began. While each character had a particular ending that was entirely believable, and strangely appropriate, it was hard not to hope for "the happy ending" (no, pervert, not that kind of happy ending).

For all his drooling, King Goslav probably had as much insight into the inner workings of the kingdom as Jezal dan Luthar does. Concerning Logen Ninefingers the reader is introduced, and left, with an image of a long fall into waters of questionable depth. Glokta seems to have traded a set of title and leash in for another. While Bethod may be dead in the north, Black Dow is on no one's list for ideal replacement. Ferro was found in Gurkhul with nothing but a heart full of vengeance for the rulers of that realm. She ends up leaving for the south with the same (imploring demons not withstanding). Bayaz, previously in command of Adua through a puppet government, returns to Adua. Ultimately, Bayaz leaves Adua, once again in command through a puppet government. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

What gives me hope for revisiting this particular cast of characters is that, despite the new title and responsibilities, Glokta is a man of questions, and a man used to getting the answers. While he seems to have plenty of answers to previous questions, I would imagine he's only just gotten started. What questions could Glokta still possibly have? Oh, that's easy. I'm sure they all revolve around self-acclaimed First of the Magi, Bayaz.

While Bayaz has been interrupted to replace one puppet government with another, he's also given a glimpse behind the curtain to Glokta, the least predictable character I've ever read. Least predictable, did I say? Yes, because as the reader begins to attune to Glokta, and the trend of his thoughts and actions, Glokta does something even he is left to wonder over. I get a feeling that, before the end of his writing career, Joe Abercrombie will have used Glokta to stump even the most intuitive of readers. That day, and story, alone are worth waiting for.

Throughout the trilogy, the formulaic approach is employed, at least superficially. The superficial use of the formulaic approach is used to, in fact, mock the formulaic approach. The subtlety of the pattern used, throughout the entire trilogy, to deposit the reader precisely where they began, is nothing short of wonder. These are only items observed analytically, however profound they be. It is to say nothing of the humor, action, drama and characterization that are displayed.

I feel like Inigo Montoya, after having read The First Law trilogy. "I hate waiting."

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The trouble with time

The trouble with time is that there is never enough to accomplish all the things I intend to. Perhaps that's merely an excuse and I simply haven't enough discipline, doing the things I want to, rather than the things I ought to. Whichever. Though I have long since finished Before They Are Hanged, only now do I arrive with the review. Indeed, the review itself is something I have long since thought through and only now commit to typing. Ah well, here it is.


A gerbal on the wheel. An expenditure of energy without any distance travelled. This is my only complaint rearding the second installment to the First Law Trilogy. A great deal transpires in the story, but by the end, the plot progression remains where it began. Usually, it's the first book in a series that is employed as the set-up piece. This is why I can only call it a complaint, and not a criticism. Clearly, Abercrombie has tinkered with the "normal", or formulaic, flow of things. Abercrombie has proven, time and again, to be unpredictable. While I (the reader) may yearn for further development of the storyline itself, I respect how the author has uniquely approached the matter.

With that minor road bump out of the way, let's get down to the goodies. There are many, so I'll be as brief as I know how in listing them. There is a significant maturation of the character Jezal dan Luthar. Jezal begins to understand that his own life, as well as the world-at-large, do not occur in a vacuum. These are not static phenomena, but dynamic and inter-related in nature. The dawning of this revelation has the young dandy developing a significant degree of self-doubt.

There is the genesis of a relationship between Logen and Ferro. It's a relationship with which many, if not all, can identify with. It's subtle in the fact that each party is less than honest with each other, as well as themselves. In a tough world, trust is never easy and the author is in firm command of that fact.

In that same tell-tale fashion, Abercrombie is subtle with the development of the history of the wider world he has brought us to. It is becoming increasingly uncertain that Bayaz is all he claims to be. The reader begins to suspect that perhaps Bayaz's past actions, and justifications therefor, aren't as transparent or honest as Bayaz would lead his companions to believe. Clearly, Bayaz's own apprentice makes remarks that insinuate as much. Thoughout the story, Bayaz's apprentice develops an increasing level of antipathy towards his master.

The story also has a little bit of everything for fans of the genre. There is a mini-epic quest for "The Seed." There is constant mystery and intrigue to uncover, which Superior Glokta finds himself confounded by at every turn. There's even a hybrid blend of heroic and military fantasy, in the best traditions of Glen Cook and David Gemmell. In the far north, Colonel West is the chief of staff to Lord Marshal Burr who has fielded an army to combat Bethod, titular King of the Northmen. With West are remaining members of Logen's merry band of Named Men.

This installment to the First Law Trilogy seems aimed at inducing the impulsion to discover more and read more, in the reader. Mission accomplished.