Wednesday, December 4, 2013
2000; 636 pages. Full Title : The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. New Author? : No. Genre : Contemporary Literature. Laurels : Pulitzer Prize winner – 2001. Overall Rating : 9½*/10.
19-year-old Joe Kavalier has just arrived in New York City from Prague, fleeing Nazi persecution. He can do marvelous drawings, but obviously knows only fragmentary English.
He’s staying at his aunt’s house, rooming with his cousin, 17-year-old Sammy Clay. Sammy’s artistic talent is marginal, but he has a way with words, and has an inexhaustible trove of catchy plotlines.
They have the talent and potential to be a top-flight comic book team, and rake in some big bucks. But it’s a jungle out there for a pair of naïve teenagers, and life will throw a lot of distractions at them. Can they stay focused and overcome the challenges? Come on, they’re teenagers.
What’s To Like...
The writing is elegant, and it’s easy to see why Kavalier & Clay won a Pulitzer Prize. The character-development is wonderful, and the three main characters – Joe, Sammy, and Rosa – make for an a surprisingly original love triangle.
There are a bunch of themes running throughout the book – Houdini-esque magic tricks, business deals, anti-Semitism, love, hatred, the challenge of emigrating to a new country – but the main ones are life in pre-WW2 America in general (especially for its Jewish citizens), and the golden era of comic books in particular. They are all superbly done. Oh, “gayness before it was acceptable” is also dealt with, so if you’re a homophobe, you probably won’t like this book.
There are a few adult situations and language, but really not enough to call it R-rated. There is some, but not a lot, of action; and just enough humor (primarily Sammy’s remarkable wit) to season the story properly.
It took me about 100 pages to get used to Chabon’s writing style, but once I did, this became quite the page-turner for me. And character-driven stories are generally not my genre.
Kewlest New Phrase. . .
Aetataureate (adj.) : of the “golden years”. Here, the phrase is “the aetataureate delusion”, which seems to refer to the (apparently false) notion that old age is fun.
Although Joe had never forgotten the girl whom he had surprised that morning in Jerry Glovsky’s bedroom, he saw that, in his nocturnal reimaginings of the moment, he had badly misremembered her. He never would have recalled her forehead as so capacious and high, her chin so delicately pointed. In fact, her face would have seemed overlong were it not counterbalanced by an extravagant flying buttress of a nose. Her rather small lips were set in a bright red hyphen that curved downward just enough at one corner to allow itself to be read as a smirk of amusement, from which she herself was not exempted, at the surrounding tableau of human vanity. (pg. 237)
“So,” said Bacon, what’s he so hot to trot about?”
“His girl,” said Sammy. “Miss Rosa Luxemburg Saks.”
“I see.” Bacon had a little bit of a southern accent. “She a foreigner, too?”
“Yeah, she is,” Sammy said. “She’s from Greenwich Village.”
“I’ve heard of it.”
“It’s a pretty backward place.”
“The people are little more than savages.”
“I hear they eat dogs there.”
“Rosa can do amazing things with dog.” (pg. 302)
“Praise means so much when it comes from a lunatic.” (pg. 539)
The first half of the book – from Joe’s arrival in NYC in 1939 until December 7th 1941, borders on being perfect. Then the storyline gets a tad disjointed, as we jump instantly to Joe’s tenure in Antarctica, and his subsequent going to ground. The ending takes place in 1954, and is somewhat contrived, but frankly, I don't think there’s any adequate way to end a complex story like this.
You can tell Chabon did a lot of research into the time period used and the world of comic books. The result is a detailed, authentic-feeling, including real people like Salvador Dali and Orson Welles making cameo appearances.
9½ Stars. 10 Stars for the first half; 9 stars for the second half. This is truly a masterpiece.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
1992; 290 pages. New Authors? : No, and no. Genre : Science Fiction; Military Fiction. Book #2 (out of 7) of the “General” series. Overall Rating : 8*/10.
It’s been two years since the events of the first book in this series, wherein Raj Whitehall made a name for himself by saving the Civil Government’s butt. Twice, even. Now, Governor Barholm deems it’s time to go on the offensive and reclaim the long-lost southern territories. And who better to lead the near-suicidal campaign than the current hero?
For Raj, it is a lose-lose situation. Defeat will mean his head will be cut off and stuck on a pole in enemy lands somewhere. Success will increase his fame and popularity. But the Civil Government grows fearful when their military leaders get too popular. And they have ways of eliminating such figures.
What’s To Like...
The “Warhammer” style is identical to the previous book in the series, The General, reviewed here. The odds are overwhelmingly against Raj; the only thing he’s got going is the computer in his head and a small, but well-trained army.
The tone is once again gritty, but the use of violence seems to blend better with the storyline here. Some of the good guys die; some of the bad guys get away. But you can probably guess the outcome, since Tewfik isn’t in this book. There’s a pair of gay lovers/commanders in Raj’s elite inner circle. That’s kinda daring and kewl, given that The Hammer was written in 1992, before the Gay Rights movement had really taken off.
There is some humor amongst the gore; particularly the worship of the Almighty Computer. I still like saying “Endfile” instead of “Amen”.
This is an R-Rated book – for the violence, the cusswords, the merciless retributions, and the adult situations. Some of us think that’s a plus.
Kewlest New Phrase. . .
Panjandrum (n.) : a person who has or claims to have a great deal of authority or influence.
“I can’t interfere in Messer Staenbridge’s household,” she pointed out gently.
“Oh, I take care of that. I got Gerrin to promise I could come as long as I healthy – now he and Barton trying to get me pregnant again so I have to stay home.”
“You don’t like that?” Suzette said, surprised.
“Oh, I like the trying, just don’t want it to work.” (pg. 18)
How are we doing, Center? Raj thought bitterly.
better than expected, Center replied.
Raj stiffened in surprise; the machine voice sounded almost jovial.
if the enemy reacts perfectly, both in making a plan on the basis of statistically-insignificant intelligence and in execution of that plan, then they could successfully attack us tonight. in that case, I will begin to believe in a god myself. A pause, perhaps a heartbeat long. theirs. (pg. 126)
“Goodwill and artillery will get you more than goodwill.” (pg. 54)
One giant plus – the editing and proofing is greatly improved from Book 1. I think I only caught one typo here.
The Hammer focuses more on Raj and less on (the computer) Center. Maybe it was just because Raj has learned to listen to the electronic advice. Maybe there’s only so much you can do with a computer personality. Either way, I liked the switch.
The ending wraps up the immediate storyline nicely, although it is also somewhat of a cliffhanger, as Raj heads back to the capital to face the judgment and jealousy of the civil authorities. With seven books in this series, I have a feeling that each one will cover a campaign by Raj and highlight the increasing tension between the army and the government. We shall see.
The writing is a bit more polished. The irksome typos have been virtually eliminated. But, as with any “middle” book in a series, there isn’t a lot of advancement in the “big picture” – how the exploits of Raj are going to impact the history of his own nation. 8 Stars. As before, add one star if war-gaming is your cup of tea.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
2013; 65 pages (Kindle equivalent; although the paperback version says its 98 pages long). New Author? : No. Genre : Humor; Fantasy. Overall Rating : 8*/10.
Noggle Stones 1½ consists of three short stories, set in Wil Radcliffe’s fantasy/alternate universe, and showcasing Bugbear the Goblin as he uses his Non-Logical Thought to thwart the revenge of the Undead, investigate a Murder, and defend an Ogre.
Between Bugbear’s unwavering self-confidence and the power of Non-Logical Thought, success in all these endeavors is completely assured. But it's fun to watch the Master Goblin ply his trade.
What’s To Like...
At 65 pages total, this is a light, quick read. You can easily get through the whole book in one sitting, although I read one story per night. And with three stories squeezed into those 65 pages, let’s not get too concerned about things like depth of character and/or complexity of storyline(s).
To me, the measure of a short story is – does it grab your interest right away, and does it entertain you throughout? Noggle Stones 1½ succeeds nicely on both accounts. The titles of the stories are (Kindle percentages in parenthesis) :
Shadow Plays (2%)
Neither Here’s Nor There’s (25%)
In Defense Of Ogres (58%)
These are all standalone stories, but really, you should read Noggle Stones 1 beforehand, so that you’re familiar with the parallel worlds, the creatures, Bugbear, and his pet philosophy : Non-Logical Thought. Bugbear is the only Noggle-1 character in this book, and ANAICT all stories take place in “our” world.
Neither Here’s Nor There’s was by far the wittiest of the three, and touched upon one of my pet grammatical peeves. In Defense Of Ogres is more serious, and has a storyline akin to the movie The Green Mile. It has a great message for readers, young and old. It is also the only tale told in the first-person (from the town drunk’s POV, no less), and is a refreshing change-of-pace in Noggle Stones storytelling.
“He has already been cremated and his ashes scattered upon the back of a stray dog!”
“Why on earth would he want his ashes scattered on a dog?” Zhora said, her face contorted with disgust.
“He didn’t,” the coroner replied. “I tripped.” (loc. 393)
“Then that puts us right back where we begun!” I said with a frown.
“True,” Bugbear said, rolling up his paper and shoving it in his pocket. “But unless you’ve begun, you’ll never be done.”
“That doesn’t make no sense.”
“But it’s profound, so it doesn’t need to make sense.” (loc. 790)
I bought Noggle Stones Book 1½: Bugbear’s Travels for $0.99 at Amazon. The other two books in the series Noggle Stones 1 (reviewed here) and Noggle Stones 2 (reviewed here) both sell for $2.99.
“Goblins don’t bathe. We’re too clever to get dirty.” (loc. 119)
The three stories get progressively longer, albeit by about 10% apiece. For me, they also got progressively more interesting, but YMMV. Maybe this was a function of length, maybe not.
ANAICT, Noggle-1½ was written after Noggle-2, so I’m wondering if they were ideas floating around in Wil Radcliffe’s head that just didn’t justify being made into full-length novels. If you’re like me and patiently waiting for more books in this series, this will serve as a satisfying-but-temporary “fix”, well worth the dollar.
It’s hard to rate a book of less than 100 pages, but let’s give it 8 Stars. Subtract one star if you didn’t read Noggle-1 first, but don’t say I didn’t tell you to. Then go find Wil Radcliffe’s website and pester him for more full-length Bugbear novels.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
2006 (Kindle version : 2011); 307 pages. New Author? : Yes. Genre : Humor; Arizona Crime Noir. Overall Rating : 9*/10.
Ex-cop Mack Durgin wants to find a fitting spot to scatter his former partner’s ashes. Diet Cola wants to retrieve the lottery ticket that he stole. Sally Windflower doesn’t want to part with her science project pet javelina. And Elvis wants his unrequited love to be ...well... requited.
They will all find the answers to their wishes in Arizona desert. But to varying degrees of fulfillment, generally not in the way they envisioned, and when pigs fly.
What’s To Like...
The characters are great. We have our hero (Mack) and a fine supporting cast of good guys, including a love interest and his parents. His Mom may be senile, but don’t cross her when she has a bullwhip in her hand. Poindexter the javelina is a hoot. Well, an oink, actually.
The bad guys come in varying shades of evilness, and they all have redeeming qualities. Two are lovably dumb, but with shoplifting skills to die for. Another redefines the phrase “insanely jealous”, and even Diet Cola has some admirable leadership skills and can tell when someone is bullsh*tting him.
The humor consists of puns, double-entendres, and wacky mayhem. Most of the story takes place in Arizona, which is home to me, so that’s a plus. It’s obvious that Bob Sanchez knows the state, and he varies the settings from Tucson and Tombstone, through Phoenix and Apache Junction, and up to Flagstaff and Williams.
The disparate plotlines come together smoothly, and everything builds to a satisfying ending. The last scene is warm and fuzzy and bloody, and all the loose ends are tied up. This is a standalone novel.
The cute ticket agent looked at them like they had just dropped in from Pluto for a week in Disneyland. Ace scratched his crotch whenever he figured nobody was looking, and Frosty scratched everywhere all the time – his neck, his forehead, both ankles and all four cheeks, pretty much all the body parts known to man.
“Sir,” the agent said to Frosty, “are you gentleman able to fly?”
Ace said, “If we could fly we wouldn’t need an airplane, Miss.” (loc. 3505)
A wild pig slurped the cherry-flavored ants on Elvis’s face. It was the ugliest, smelliest creature Elvis had ever encountered except for Diet Cola. There were long, curved tusks and bristles on its face that would break a razor blade. It grunted soft, sweet nothings, then stuck its raspy tongue into Elvis’s ear. The gesture had a calming effect on Elvis, who thought this was the most gentleness he’d felt in a long time, even if the creature only liked him for his syrup. (loc. 10632)
When Pigs Fly sells for $2.99 at Amazon. There is no sequel, but Bob Sanchez has two detective novels available for the Kindle, also priced $2.99.
“Mooned by a pig. This is the best wedding ever!” (loc. 14647)
Everybody’s sense of humor is different. If you like Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey’s Florida crime humor but wish they’d set some books in other states, When Pigs Fly is for you. OTOH, if you don’t find anything funny about burying someone up to his neck on an anthill, then you might want to skip this genre.
For me, this was a thoroughly entertaining, light read. I LMAO’d all through it. And at one point, a pig really does fly. Well, a javelina, anyway.
9 Stars. Subtract one-half star if you find Arizona boring; subtract another one-half star if Monty Python humor isn’t your cup of tea.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
2012; 418 pages. New Author? : No, and no. Genre : Science Fiction. Overall Rating : 9*/10.
Ah, multiverses! A Quantum Physics offshoot that hypothesizes that an alternate world is created every time the cosmos comes to a significant crossroad of possibilities. Such as the dinosaur-killing asteroid missing our planet. Interesting, but irrelevant, since it’s impossible to “step” into that parallel universe.
But what if we could? By using a remarkable little device (with the integral part being an ordinary potato) called a “stepper”. An infinite number of other dimensions await those willing to step. With infinite resources, and a dazzling variety of strange creatures, due to evolutionary variance.
But you don’t jump geographically. You may be stepping onto another planet earth, but you will always "land" in the exact same spot on the planet(s). Care is required. For instance, if the ocean covers the whole planet in a parallel world, your stepping there could have dire consequences.
But there are ways to leapfrog that risk.
What’s To Like...
The two authors’ collaborative efforts are seamless and outstanding. You get Terry Pratchett’s wit combined with Stephen Baxter’s Science Fiction. The book’s structure is very similar to Baxter’s Evolution, but here he is free to be more imaginative in his world-building.
The three main characters are Joshua, Sally, and Lobsang, and the main plotline is their endeavor to keep stepping from world to world until they reach “the end”, whatever that may turn out to be. You are also introduced to a bunch more characters, many of which aren’t seen again. But The Long Earth is just the first book in a proposed new series, so I presume these “extras” will play bigger parts as the story progresses. Likewise for a couple of subplots that remain little more than embryonic at the end of the book.
The “mood” of the book is light for the most part, thanks to Terry Pratchett’s input. But there is a hint of serious topics to come, particularly with the rise of the “Anti-Stepping Movement” back on the Home Earth.
The ending feels a bit rushed, but our heroes’ odyssey is brought to a conclusion, and the groundwork is laid for Book 2, The Long War, which is already available. So you have a satisfactory resolution to the immediate story-within-a-story, and a teaser of things to come.
Kewlest New Phrase. . .
Turing Test (n.) : a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.
“Joshua, always remember, you have not travelled back in time, or forward. You have travelled far across the contingency tree of the possible, on a planet where dramatic but quasi-random extinction events periodically obliterate much of the family of life, leaving room for evolutionary innovstion. On each Earth, however, the outcomes will differ, by a little or a lot.” (pg. 263)
“Look at the trolls. Yes, the trolls are friendly and helpful, and I would not wish any harm to come to them. They are happy, and I could envy that. But they don’t build, they do not make, they take the world for what it is. Humans start with the world as it is and try to make it different. And that’s what makes them interesting. In all these worlds we are rushing over, the most precious thing that we can find is another human being.” (pg. 344)
“It all seems such a waste, doesn’t it? All these worlds. What’s the point, without mind?” (pg. 333)
Genre-wise, The Long Earth reminds me of both a James B. Hogan “hard” science fiction tale, and an Andre Norton “other world” story. So this is a “food for thought” tale, not a hack-&-slash, save-the galaxy adventure. If the names Hogan and Norton don’t ring any bells, and your Sci-Fi tastes are limited to Star Wars fan books, you might be disappointed by the lack of bloodletting.
Terry Pratchett is my favorite Fantasy author, and Evolution has made me a fan of Stephen Baxter. And as much as I like to read classic sci-fi by Norton and Hogan, Pratchett and Baxter frankly do it better.
My only question (Warning! Minor Spoiler Alert ahead!) is why, given all the other beasts encountered on the parallel earths, no humans (other than steppers from the Home Earth) are ever found. Perhaps this is addressed in a forthcoming book. 9 Stars. Barnes & Noble didn’t have the sequel in stock when I bought this, but I’m pretty sure I’ll buy it when I find it, and end up getting hooked on the series.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
2012; 225 pages. Full Title : Keepers of Water (Guardians of Nature). New Author? : Yes. Genre : Fantasy; Adventure. Overall Rating : 5*/10.
Arieana’s brother, Rydan, has been slain and although it happened a world away, his spirit reaches out to warn her not to seek revenge. But the murderers weren’t brutish terrans, they were fellow Baileans. And that simply cannot be allowed to go unpunished. So it’s off to the deserts of Chile, where Rydan met his end, to do some serious whup-assing.
Sorien’s parents were archaeologists that were murdered in the same area. Now one of his colleagues has met the same fate, in the same locale. Sorien is hardly an Indiana Jones, although he too is an archaeologist. The three murders obviously have something to do with the dig they were all working on. And the only way to get to the bottom of the tragedies is to go there, look through their notes for clues, and continue the excavations
Even if that moves Sorien to the top of the most-likely-to-meet-an-untimely-end list.
What’s To Like...
There are parallel worlds (Baile and ours) and the Mandarin Chinese symbol for water on the book cover. Those things always appeal to me. Ditto for anytime archaeology plays a part in a story. The world-building of Baile is modest, but adequate for the storyline. Outside of the magic practiced there, its citizenry is much like ours, for better and for worse. The Chilean desert is a refreshing change of pace for an adventure setting.
The main good-guy characters – Sorien, Arieana, Aeryn, and Brooke – are all likeable and interesting. The baddies are less developed, but at least aren’t all black – there is a redeeming motive for their actions. They aren’t terribly cunning or resourceful though.
Besides the standard “get the Ultimate Artifact (‘UA’) and save the world” scenario, there seems to be a more subtle theme here – learning to control one’s emotions. That’s kewl.
The ending is unsatisfying; nothing is resolved. Rydan’s death is un-avenged, the baddies aren’t thwarted, the identity of the head bad guy remains veiled, and nobody knows what the UA does. These are obviously “to be continued” teasers, but there is no sequel, and nothing in the Amazon blurbs leads me to believe one is in the works. So Keepers of Water comes off as an introduction to a series that doesn’t exist.
“I followed the voices. They seemed so far away and sad, so I thought I would find them and cheer them up.”
“What voices?” they both asked in unison but for completely different reasons. She knew Sorien probably thought the child had imaginary friends; Arieana was worried about the others being too close. Whatever had brought this child out to the middle of nowhere had been powerful, and that worried her.
“Um. . . the voices that came from beneath the sand. They sounded so sad. I wanted to play with them so that they were no longer lonely.” (loc. 1971)
“What’s your name?”
“Ah, you would want to know. Not that it will do you any good, but it’s An’Drea.”
“It will. I will remember you, and you need to remember me.”
“And why might that be?”
“Because my face will be the last one you see when I kill you.” (loc. 2893)
Keepers of Water sells for $3.99 at Amazon. R.G. Porter has a dozen or so books available for the Kindle, ranging from free to $3.99.
Don’t hide in the darkness. It’s icky. (loc. 662)
Keepers of Water is a promising first draft of a story that screams for Phase 2 of writing a novel : editing, proofing, and beta-reading.
This is most evident in the typos. In addition to the fare/fair and rein/reign sort of lapses, the book has one new (to me) and irksome recurring error. “Senior” is used instead of “Senor”. So the Spanish speakers say “Senior Jacobs”. Ouch. I can’t see any proof- or beta-reader missing that.
There is too much telling and not enough showing. We are reminded repeatedly that the Bailean council is not to be trusted, and that Arieana is hesitant to open up to Sorien. Wouldn't it be stronger to demonstrate these things to the reader, rather than tell them.
Finally, there are the WTF moments. The baddies are lurking, hoping for the UA to be unearthed by our heroes. So why attack a nearby town, which brings ill-advised attention? OTOH, when several of the townspeople are killed in the attack, does anybody fire off a communication to the Federales, requesting help? Of course not.
There’s no sex, booze, or drugs; and I don’t recall any cussing. There isn’t even any romance, although I get the feeling one's on the horizon. There is some killing, so this isn’t a cozy. But it isn’t overly gruesome. No plot twists jumped out to surprise me. I think this could be reworked into a dynamite YA novel.
5 Stars. Out of 10. Add 1 star if the sequel is published. Add 2 stars if a revised version comes out, after the requisite editing.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
1972; 475 pages. New Author? : Yes. Laurels : 1972 Guardian Prize; 1972 Carnegie Medal; the best-selling Penguin Books novel of all time; #42 in the 2003 Big Read survey of the “Greatest Books of all time”. Genre : Contemporary Fiction. Overall Rating : 10*/10.
According to the rabbit Fiver, something catastrophic is about to happen to the home rabbit hole. He may or may not be prescient, and he’s short on details; so most of the other rabbits don’t believe him when he says the warren needs to be abandoned at once.
But Hazel does. So the two of them, along with nine other bucks, embark upon a long journey to establish a new colony. It will be fraught with danger, and none of them know exactly where they’re going. All they can do is hope that Fiver will “sense” the right spot.
What’s To Like...
The rabbits (and most of the other animals) are anthropomorphic. They can talk, dream, plan strategies, sing, play a game called bob-stones, and even problem-solve. But they’re still rabbits who like to do rabbity things – eat clover, frolic in the sun, and occasionally sneak down to some farmer’s vegetable patch to munch on some delicious carrots or lettuce.
The pacing is good – no small feat when the subject is the rabbits’ habits. The characters aren’t terribly deep, but they aren’t 2-D either. Hazel is not a Mary Sue. He sometimes makes wrong decisions and gets jealous if another rabbit shows leadership qualities. The antagonist, General Woundwort, is superbly rendered. He may be a big bad bully, but he has some good points too. The ultimate resolution of him is a stroke of genius. Kehaar is a hoot. Well, a squawk, actually.
The book is divided into 50 chapters. Each starts off with a neat little literary excerpt. There’s a map at the front of the book, but in my version it was poorly done and you don’t really need it to follow the storyline. There’s also a 3-page glossary of rabbit-speak (called “Lapine”) in the back. This does come in handy, as Richard Adams uses these bunny words frequently, and to good effect.
The rabbits in Watership Down love to tell stories, which make for refreshing breaks in the narrative. Most of them are oral legends concerning El-ahrairah, a legend among rabbits. And at one point, Adams apparently “writes himself into a corner”. No problem; he just labels the next chapter “Dea ex Machina”, and contrives a way out of the plotline fix. I think that’s cool.
Kewlest New Word. . .
Lollop (v.) : to move in an ungainly manner in a series of clumsy paces or bounds.
“And Frith called after him, “El-ahrairah, your people cannot rule the world, for I will not have it so. All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed.” (pg. 60)
Many human beings say that they enjoy the winter, but what they really enjoy is feeling proof against it. For them there is no winter food problem. They have fires and warm clothes. The winter cannot hurt them and therefore increases their sense of cleverness and security. For birds and animals, as for poor men, winter is another matter. (pg. 465)
“Foxes here, weasels there, Fiver in the middle, begone dull care!” (pg. 24)
There is a movie version of Watership Down which, along with The Point, are probably my two favorite animated films of all time. It’s been a while since I’ve watched it, but it seems to me that I thought Hazel was a “she” in the movie. The book seems more “focused” (for lack of a better term), but maybe that’s because it includes a bunch of side-stories and details that inevitably have to be omitted from any film based on a novel. Or maybe it’s just that I was probably wasted when I watched the movie.
Watership Down is a standalone novel that will captivate any and all who read it. Little girls will love the bunnies. Little boys will love the fighting. Adults will enjoy a well-told, well-written tale. The epilogue will leave a lump in your throat.
I can’t think of any negatives to say, and when a book keeps me thoroughly entertained (and a slew of other readers, apparently – there are over 1200 reviews of this book on Amazon) with 475 pages about rabbits, I think that’s quite the accomplishment. 10 Stars. A masterpiece. And the movie is a 10*/10 as well.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
2011; 190 pages. New Author? : Yes. Book 1 (out of four) of the “Tears of Rage” series. Genre : Epic Fantasy; “Epic Lite”. Overall Rating : 7½*/10.
Julianna Taraen has had a rough life so far. Both her parents have been slain, and the aunt and uncle she’s been sent to live with are less than doting.
Birthdays seem to be bad days, especially #7 and #14, when horrific things happened. But tomorrow is Julianna’s 21st birthday, and surely there’s nothing of numerological significance to worry about, is there?
What’s To Like...
There are a couple of slow chapters to begin with – think of them as the backstory – but after that, it’s nonstop action. This is an R-Rated book – there is blood, gore, nudity, rape, sex, erections, BJ’s, etc. There is a strong female lead, but you probably don’t want little Susie reading this.
M. Todd Gallowglas lays the foundation for a complex world. There are various “realms” (celestial, spirit, earthly); both Lesser and Greater Gods and their associated minions; several religions to quarrel with each other; and a slew of ruling “Houses” to plot and fight against each other. That makes for a bunch of beings to meet-&-greet. Gallowglas provides a Cast of Characters at the start of the novel. Bookmark it; you will be referring to it often.
I liked that the various gods, while certainly powerful, were not all that . . .well. . . godly. Humans tended to be either “black” or “white”, although the baddies were resourceful and cunning. However, some characters seem to be developed, only to be immediately killed off. That felt clunky, although in a Fantasy Series, one’s death is never necessarily permanent.
There is a bit of time-travel; that always is a plus with me. The author likes to use contrived spellings – Aengyls, Daemyns, Saents, etc.. This will bug some readers, but I thought it worked well here.
A little way down the hill, toward the direction of the mill, another two blankets were spread out for the servants. They ate as well, only they had just started, as they had been serving their patrons earlier. Unlike those higher on the hill, the servants did not converse much and did not drink at all. Drinking addled the mind, and gatherings like this were when servants needed all their wits about them, for who knew what tasty bit of gossip they might pick up to share in the servant’s quarters later, or perhaps even a secret or two to sell to a rival family. (loc. 1037)
“Please my lady, uh, your Excellency. Don’t do anything to get us punished.”
“You are no one to command me,” Sylvie said, and crawled out from under the wagon.
The only thing Sylvie’s plan might earn her is a bit of momentary humiliation, but it was time to stop living like a peasant. If that meant sharing a bed with a man she could barely stomach, so be it. She would rather suffer that indignity than spend one more day under the illusion that she and the maid were in anyway (sic) equal. (loc. 3384)
First Chosen sells for $0.99 at Amazon. The other three books in the series run from $3.99 to $4.99.
“My father’s god is going to eat your soul!” (loc. 432)
The ending to First Chosen was meh; it didn’t resolve any issues or complete a story-within-a-story. Our heroes escape to fight another day, and the baddies continue their pursuit of dastardly deeds. The final section introduces a whole new set of characters, then leaves the reader hanging.
At 190 pages, the book hardly qualifies as “epic”. Book 2 is of similar length; then Books 3 and 4 are each roughly twice as long.
So I have a feeling that the first two books in this series were actually penned as one story, and were sliced in half so that the author could offer the first 200 pages as a teaser. This is not a criticism; I think it’s a savvy marketing strategy. But it means that First Chosen is little more than an introduction to the world, magic, and entities that M. Todd Gallowglas plans to utilize as the series progresses.
7½ Stars. Subject to change if the sequel has a more “complete” ending. Add one-half star if the phrase “Epic Lite” appeals to your reading tastes.