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Realms Of Speculative Fiction

Fantasy, SF, science fiction, literature, Reviews, Horror, speculative fiction, books, novels

Updated: 2018-03-06T18:28:27.650+01:00


The Deserter by Peadar ó Guílin


"The Deserter" (Amazon: UK)by Paedar O'GuilinFormat: Paperback, 448 pages Publisher: David Fickling BooksFirst published: 26 April 2012 Fans of the golden age of science fiction rejoice - The Deserter is no less than a bona fide homage to old school space opera. I enjoy the fact that the first instalment (The Inferior - which I reviewed a few years past) has an unwavering feel of fantasy through-and-through and the sophomore effort unveils itself as a space adventure mixed in with some good worldbuilding ideas. Since I haven't had the pleasure to read a lot of the old stuff I can't really judge on how many ideas Paedar - indiscriminately - borrowed. Taking this into account I have to say I really enjoyed a few of presented concepts, such as the Roof, impact of nano-tech, The Crisis and so forth.The writing is not as vivid as I'd like it to be. The enviroment feels cramped and somewhat under-developed so I couldn't fully immerse into the world. Characters are very endearing, despite the fact the relationship between Indriani and Stopmouth is relatively straightforward. I also hoped for more insight into what makes Indriani and some of the others tick. The most believable character, in my opinion, was Hiresh - I enjoyed his inner strife and transformation. What I'm trying to convey is that despite light characterization, Hiresh has that added value to him that makes the reader care. Writing is simple (compared to some of the more eloquent masters out there), but very efficient. The plot moves along at a brisk pace and considering the fact that I managed to read one whole book in 2012 (notice the sarcasm please), I could exaggerate and say I finished The Deserter in mere seconds. I'd love to see less black&white and more intricate & complex presentation of the two Castes, but the main idea got through well enough. First half of the book is full of suspense, but once all the "mysteries" of the plot and the world itself get fully revealed to Stopmouth (and subsequently reader) the story bogs down a bit and the action scenes become somewhat repetitive. Nevertheless, I must admit the resolution of the story is quite enjoyable and well done.I've read The Inferior quite a while ago so I don't feel confident enough comparing the books, but if recall correctly I've enjoyed the first one a bit more - emphasis is on the survival of the cast or it is simply more heartfelt and visceral, we witness Indriani's and Stopmouth's relationship grow in subtle and believable manner, fantasy world is in the forefront and there is a bucketful of unexplained information about the world (hinting at a larger sf setting) that keeps the reader guessing. Despite the shortcomings, The Deserter isn't a dissapointing read at all. It's not particularly profound in its nature, but I can't say it's simple and boring either. The world and the plot are well thought out, and even though the writing fails to always bring it forth for the reader The Deserter isn't plagued by the middle book syndrome. I can recommend the book as a light, fun and adventurous young adult read that grownups who enjoy(ed) science fiction's formative authors can pick up as well...if for nothing else to reminisce.- ThRiNiDiR - [...]



I haven't read a book in almost a year. I miss reading, but I just can't get myself in the mood to pick up reading again. It's a special kind of hell, I feel blinded, deafened and numbed. I'm not sure how long this state will last or if it won't pass at all, but when/if it does I'll try to write an update or actually something meaningful here - this is supposed to be a review blog after all. For the minor shifts you can still follow my Goodreads page. Oh, I'm not sure if Trin's ever to write reviews for this blog again, that's why the months of silence, since she was the only one who was active for the last few years.

I wish you many good reads until you hear from me again. Take care.

p.s. Kings of Morning by Kearney was a decent conclusion to the trilogy but I was far less impressed with Kearney's latest works than the majority of those who read and reviewed it. I still recommend that you read The Sea Beggars trilogy and what has been written before it first.

Christopher Priest is a beast (I'm a rhyming devil I know). It's hard for me to name an author that writes in such an imaginative and immersive fashion. The Islanders is a weird set of interconnected short stories. I missed out on a lot of it since it requires the reader to be familiar with Priest's previous works (some of them preceding The Islanders both thematically and story-wise), but there is still enough of powerful and deliciously mind-boggling moments for me to recommend reading, especially if you've read his previous works and liked them.




Trying to write reviews...ever so slowly. *sad face*

I'm currently working on a review of "The Islanders" by Christopher Priest and "Kings of Morning" by Paul Kearney.

Monthly report: June 2011


Because it often happens that I read a book but don't review it (or I take a long time writing a review), I've decided to start posting brief monthly reports on what I read, including a sentence or two about the book if it was not reviewed.Flood (Stephen Baxter)I have mixed feelings about Flood. The idea behind it is interesting enough, but the problem is that the author didn't quite manage to get the best out of it and wrote a kind of a family drama instead. (Review upcoming.)Inverted World (Christopher Priest)Christopher Priest is one of my favourite authors and when I found out that this book is post-apocalyptic, there was not really a chance of me not buying and reading it ASAP. I was not disappointed; Inverted World is a captivating story with a protagonist who's just as unreliable as the protagonists of Priest's other books.Bitter Seeds (Ian Tregillis)Another book that was sitting on my to-buy list for years simply because it was published in hardback only. I finally had enough and ordered the damn hardcover, and I was actually really glad I did. Bitter Seeds was not quite what I expected, but it got me hooked nevertheless. Ican't wait for the sequel to come out.Shutter Island (Dennis Lehane)Yeah, I know I said I probably wouldn't read this one very soon, but I happened to be in the mood for something familiar. What I found out was that the movie script was very strictly following the book; although it was a really pleasant read, Shutter Island is one of those rare books that are not significantly better than their movie adaptations.The Shrinking Man (Richard Matheson)I adored Matheson's I Am Legend, so I naturally grabbed The Shrinking Man off the shelf as soon as I saw it in a bookstore in Belgrade. Time has not been so kind to this one, however - the idea of a tiny man was probably new back in 1956, but the novelty of it has long since worn off. Without it, the plot is not as engaging as I had hoped it would be.Lord of the Flies (William Golding)I probably should've read Lord of the Flies because it is, after all, a classic, but in fact I mostly read it because the back cover blurb sounded a lot like Battle Royale. :D I honestly can't say whether I liked it or not, though. I'm no good when it comes to judging such books, I'm afraid.A Feast for Crows (George R. R. Martin)This was just a quick re-read to catch up on everything before ADWD came out. I found out that I've forgotten quite a lot of what takes place in AFFC; even after this re-read, a lot of the details still elude me. I think it'll be time for another re-read soon. :)_______________________Due to vacations and me moving apartments again, August's content will be posted a bit erratically, if at all. Sorry. :([...]

The Pile - May & June '11


The TBR pile - we all have one and it grows faster than we can read. Mine is no exception. I thought it might be interesting to round up and present all of my recent acquisitions once a month, so ... here we go.I was late in posting The Pile for May and I didn't buy much books in June, so I decided to merge both posts.The Deserter (Peadar Ó Guilín)I read The Inferior when it came out back in 2007 and I remember really liking it, so when I heard that The Deserter is finally coming out I was really thrilled. Peadar was kind enough to send me a review copy, but I absolutely have to re-read The Inferior so I'll be able to fully enjoy The Deserter. Reading priority: high.Night Work (Thomas Glavinic)I've accidentaly stumbled across this book while browsing the Web and thought the blurb on the back sounded interesting - Night Work is a book about some guy who finds himself alone on Earth while everyone else seems to have vanished into thin air. Reading priority: medium.The Quantum Thief (Hannu Rajaniemi)There was a lot of buzz around Quantum Thief a while ago, with it getting nominated for Locus award for best first novel and everything. It all got me curious, so I was very happy to receive a review copy of it from Tor. Reading priority: high.Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)Not really speculative fiction, but even I have to take a break from time to time. :) Bought this because I wanted to buy something I usually wouldn't and I remembered a friend told me about this one. Reading priority: medium.Pump Six and Other Stories (Paolo Bacigalupi)No, I didn't read The Windup Girl yet. I still ordered Pump Six, just because. It's supposed to be really good and it's been on my wishlist for ages, mostly because it took so long before it was published in paperback. Reading priority: medium.The Pile SpecialI bet you know the feeling when you have a book on your TBR pile that seemingly everyone has read and praised, but you still haven't gotten around to reading it. I have plenty of those, and I will select and present one every month. My goal? To read it ASAP, preferably during the next month. This month's special is:Brent Weeks: The Way of ShadowsI saw it, bought it and forgot about it, as usual. Then I met a girl last month who absolutely adores The Night Angel trilogy - even more so than A Song of Ice and Fire series. Now I think I really need to read The Way of Shadows, if only to see whether her love for it is justified.______________'Fun' fact: as for now, I've only read one of all The Pile Specials - Richard Morgan's Black Man. I've started reading Gormenghast and Nights of Villjamur, but I didn't feel I was in the mood for the latter and while I like the former, I read it a bit like a bedside story, a few pages every evening, so it will take me forever to read.[...]

George R. R. Martin - A Dance With Dragons (Book Review)


At first, I meant to wait and publish this review on 12th of July, but then a bunch of reviews got released a few days ago and I changed my mind. :) Keep in mind that I’m a huge fan of ASOIAF series; I tried my best to write a non-biased review, but reviewing books you like is always hard. This review does NOT include any significant spoilers for ADWD, but it does include some references to previous volumes. I was one of the lucky few who got their books from – in my case, though, it was also through kindness of Adz, who was actually the one who pre-ordered the books and was generous enough to send me one of her two copies. Thanks again! You can imagine how thrilled I was when the book arrived, and I began reading it immediately, but by the time I finally put it down, my excitement had somewhat waned. Why?Well, the first thing is that A Dance with Dragons is, as Wert aptly described it, sprawling. It takes place on many different locations of The Seven Kingdoms and The Free Cities that are sometimes a whole continent apart. Before, we mostly followed events that took place in The Seven Kingdoms, with Dany and later Arya being the only POVS in The Free Cities. This time around, The Free Cities are in the centre of it all, but plenty of POVs still remain scattered throughout The Seven Kingdoms – and each is telling their own story. This can sometimes make the story seem a bit too diffused; the reader has to follow both the politics of The Free Cities and the events in The Seven Kingdoms, which are not in the best of states after the events of A Feast for Crows.Jumping to and fro between POVs doesn’t help the reader any. In the first half of the book, the POVs are mostly Tyrion, Jon and Daenerys, which makes the plot very easy to follow even though it’s as complex as always. In the other half of the book, though, the POVs grow considerably more numerous and incredibly fragmented, with plenty of characters only appearing in one or two chapters. The plot is thus much harder to follow and the flow of the story is interrupted, but on the other hand, this fragmentation also brings some insight into the events that transpire in The Seven Kingdoms. Still, it all left me a bit confused, if very much curious as to what will happen next.A Dance with Dragons will not answer most of the questions you’ve had ever since you’ve read A Feast for Crows or even A Storm of Swords; it will rather give you plenty more things to wonder about. In the second half of the book, we reach the final events of A Feast for Crows and see some of the familiar faces again, but to my great disappointment, most of POVs from A Feast for Crows only appear briefly and in some cases not at all.What probably irked me most about A Dance with Dragons was that many characters previously thought dead or missing appear again. Even though they are mostly minor characters, this took some edge off my constant worry over who will get killed next. A Dance with Dragons has its share of shocking events, but they left me skeptical – after all, I’ve just been shown that not everything happened the way I thought it did, so who says it’s any different this time around? Who says those characters will not return in The Winds of Winter? The problem is that I like to worry about who will die next – it means that I actually care about the characters and this emotional investment is an important part of my reading experience. So while I do not believe that all of the characters presumed dead or missing will stay this way in the next two installments, I sure hope that most of them will.So, was A Dance with Dragons worth the wait? I honestly can’t give a definite answer to that question. It’s definitely a wonderful and complex book that did not disappoint me, but on the other hand, it could hardly live up to the expectations I’ve had of it after all these years. The style is often not as flowing as I’d like it to [...]

Monthly report: May '11


Because it often happens that I read a book but don't review it (or I take a long time writing a review), I've decided to start posting brief monthly reports on what I read, including a sentence or two about the book if it was not reviewed.May was a month of good books. Sure, I read good books every month, but it rarely happens that I read four or five excellent books in a row.The Gone-Away World (Nick Harkaway)This is probably going to be one of my favourite books of 2011. The Gone-Away world is not so much about a world that has suffered a major (and incredibly weird) catastrophe but about a life of a man who met a lot of strange people and seen a lot of strange things. The plot is so full of fantastic elements that it functions almost like a fairy tale, despite the very sombre themes of war, destruction and loss, and the ending kicks ass. Very much recommended.Palimpsest (Catherynne M. Valente)This is another book that might find its way to my Best of 2011 list. I loved Valente's The Orphan's Tales duology, but it wasn't until I read Palimpsest that Valente definitely became one of my favourite authors. Her style is simply incredible and the stories she tells are magical, no matter whether they are fairy tales written on the eyelids of an orphan girl or stories of a magical city that can ruin lives as well as make them wonderful.On The Beach (Nevil Shute)This is the book that started my fascination with everything eschatological. It all began when I saw its TV adaptation at age 11 and had nightmares for a week (fun times!). So when I found out that there was a book behind it all, I simply had to read it. I knew what to expect, so I didn't find the book as depressing as some might have, but it was still an interesting and melancholic read. (Review upcoming.)Let The Right One In (John Ajvide Lindqvist)Vampires! Every time I enter the local bookshop I see vampire books everywhere. The shelf that used to hold mostly SF/FF and a few horror titles is now full of paranormal romance. I'm very happy when I find books like Let The Right One In that show vampires as something other than sexy bloodsuckers. While not exactly horror, this book was an intriguing and very unusual read.Under Heaven (Guy Gavriel Kay)Everyone loved this book and I finally know why. At first glance, Under Heaven reminded me of Daniel Abraham's The Long Price Quartet, but the similarities lie mostly in the setting and the great writing style. I especially appreciated the characters and the way the plot resolved - one would expect a way more 'traditional' ending, but Under Heaven ends in a way that adds some extra feeling of realism and leaves you wishing there was a sequel. I definitely need to read some other works by Guy Gavriel Kay._______________DO YOU SEE WHAT EXAMS DO TO MY SCHEDULE?? argh. I'm afraid there will be no reviews this month, but I'll try to at least put The Pile post together.[...]

Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games (Book Review)


-Reasons for reading: The Hunger Games (or its sequels) found its way onto so many Best Of lists that I had to read it. Also, it's post-apocalyptic, which is a good enough reason for me.In a distant future, there is nothing in North America but ruins, devastation and a nation of Panem, an isle of civilization amidst destruction. When one of its 13 districts surrounding the glorious Capitol rebelled, the Capitol destroyed it and created Hunger Games to punish people of the districts for disobedience: every year, each district must sacrifice two teenagers, one male and one female, to compete with the others for fame, glory and comfort. Katniss Everdeen is just an ordinary girl, but when her younger sister's name is drawn at the lottery, she volunteers to take her place in order to save her – the Hunger Games mean fight to death and there is only one winner.The Hunger Games came as a huge surprise for me. Despite all the hype that surrounded the recent publication of Mockingjay (or maybe because of it), I remained wary of the series and only ordered Book I when it found its way to numerous Best Of lists. I'm glad that I did.The plot of The Hunger Games is nothing very new or unique – a reality show where teenage contestants fight to death and/or the one who survives the longest wins. I was introduced to the concept in Stephen's King The Long Walk and it intrigued me even then, so naturally, the main plot of The Hunger Games appealed to me despite its similarities to The Long Walk*.What came as a real surprise, though, was that The Hunger Games was incredibly exciting. Saying that a story is 'gripping' sounds like a major cliché, but it's true; I've read it in one sitting and I loved (almost) every bit of it. I can't remember when I've last read a book with this much suspense and a story so vivid. Collins constructs a very interesting post-apocalyptic world which actually works and doesn't feel too fake or too rigid. Of course, there are questions that go unanswered, especially regarding the economy of Panem, but the reader's attention is gently redirected to the central part of the story – the games – so the reader quickly stops dwelling on other things and becomes immersed in the action..Katniss is a very likeable character and I was glad to see that, for once, the protagonist of a YA novel is not the archetypal troubled teenager. Sure, Katniss is troubled by some typical teenage problems, and can, at times, be a bit of a Mary-Sue: she has no serious character flaws as far as I've managed to discern, she is pretty, an amazing archer and a capable hunter, brave and caring … The situations she finds herself in, however, make her concentrate on survival and other tasks at hand instead of herself. It also helps that Collins plays the reader incredibly well – one can never be really sure who exactly is and who isn't Katniss friend in the arena at most times.Speaking of the arena – I half-hoped that there would be some kind of a twist that would show the reader how Katniss' point of view isn't always 100% accurate. There were some passages where Katniss admits to forgetting how many contestants remain in the arena; I hoped that the author would take advantage of Katniss' and reader's confusion to add to the suspense by surprising us with a character we completely forgot about. Sadly, this was not the case; for better or worse, Collins keeps track of all contestants who matter and Katniss never misjudges a situation severely.Although I practically devoured The Hunger Games, there were still some things that bothered me. I already mentioned most of them, but the one that bothered me most of all was the slight shift of attention from the Games to the love-triangle-in-the-making in the last third of the book. I mean, really? Why does every YA series need one of those? I honestly can't remember me or any of my friends being in tha[...]

Eye Candy Covers: The Islanders by Christopher Priest


Eye candy covers! There was no post about covers here on RoSF in two years or so, because - actually, I have no idea why. (Probably because Thrinidir did those, and Thrinidir does not contribute to this blog as much as he used to.)
Anyway, I think it's about time to resurrect this column, because everyone loves a nice cover.

The Islanders by Christopher Priest is probably my most-awaited book of 2011. (Yes, I'm anticipating it even more than ADwD, simply because I won't believe that ADwD is finished until I hold it in my hands.*) Here's the working image for its cover:

Damn. This is hardly an eye candy. As Adam noted, it's very retro; my problem is that I don't like retro at all. I like the Gollancz paperback covers of Priest's books; they are elegant and pretty:

----------(image) ---(image) --------
(image) ---(image)

This one, however ... I really hope they change it. If I saw The Islanders in a bookshop, I'd walk straight past it with a cover like that - to me, it seems to scream 'BORING'. It also looks a bit like the books my mother read when I was a kid, which is in fact probably one of the reasons why I think 'boring' when I see it.

Source: The Wertzone

* Not that this has prevented me from pre-ordering it

The Pile: March & April '11


The TBR pile - we all have one and it grows faster than we can read. Mine is no exception. I thought it might be interesting to round up and present all of my recent acquisitions once a month, so ... here we go.I completely forgot to do The Pile for March! Luckily, I've presented some of the books in the Monthly report; otherwise, this list would be even longer than it already is.Max Brooks: World War ZThis one was on my to-buy list for a very long time until I finally decided to buy it. On one hand, it's the book everyone mentions sooner or later when there's a debate involving zombie apocalypse; on the other hand, I'm not really a big fan of the zombie apocalypse. We'll see whether World War Z makes me change my mind. Reading priority: medium.Patrick Rothfuss: The Wise Man's FearDo I even need to say anything about this one? I liked The Name of the Wind very, very much. I do have to re-read it, though, so The Wise Man's Fear will sit on my shelf for a bit more. Reading priority is therefore medium.Stanislaw Lem: SolarisI don't know much about this one other than it's a classic SF novel and that Lem is a pretty good writer. I bought it completely on a whim when I found it on a shelf of a local bookshop. Reading priority: medium.Stephen Baxter: FloodIt's post-apocalyptic and it has a cool cover. Reading priority: high! (Yeah, this is essentially my criteria for which book to read next. I'm a shallow person. :D )Christopher Priest: The PrestigeAnother one of those 'saw the movie, bought the book' novels. However, I don't really think I'll forget the twist of The Prestige anytime soon, so reading priority is medium (and not low, as Shutter Island's is). I mean, this is Christopher Priest, how can I buy a book of his and not read it anytime soon?Iain Banks: TransitionYou know how it is when you absolutely need to buy a book and ordering it from the Internet is just not good enough? At times like these, I have to resort to local bookshops which don't really have that many books in English, and I buy the first thing that looks half decent. I don't know anything about Transition other than it was written by Banks, but that's good enough for me. Reading priority: low. (Ugly cover. Sorry, Mr. Banks.)Iain Banks: The Crow RoadI also have this habit of buying at least one book whenever I travel abroad. I picked this one up in Belgrade, mostly because it starts with 'It was the day when my grandmother exploded'. How could I not buy it after an opening like that? Reading priority: high. (Pretty cover.)Richard Matheson: The Shrinking ManThe second book I bought in Belgrade. The Shrinking Man is about a man who one day starts growing smaller and smaller (as the title tells us), and discovers that being really tiny is no fun at all. I really liked I Am Legend, so I hope this one will not disappoint too badly. Reading priority: medium.Steven C. Schlozman: The Zombie AutopsiesI got this one as a review copy from Bantam. Looks very similar to World War Z - it's written as a journal kept by a neuroscientist who investigates a zombie disease. Reading priority: low.Jon Steele: The WatchersAnother review copy from Bantam! This one looks much more intriguing than The Zombie Autopsies; 'a number of more or less ordinary people whose paths eventually intersect' is always an interesting, if much used, premise. Reading priority: high.The Pile SpecialI bet you know the feeling when you have a book on your TBR pile that seemingly everyone has read and praised, but you still haven't gotten around to reading it. I have plenty of those, and I will select and present one every month. My goal? To read it ASAP, preferably during the next month. This month's special is:Mervyn Peake: Gormenghast TrilogyThe story here is the same as with all of the previous The Pile Specials: I bought the book some time[...]

William Gibson - Neuromancer (Book Review)


-Reasons for reading: I had to read it for a paper I was writing.As soon as I started reading it, I realised that Neuromancer is a very curious book. At first, it's all a bit confusing, with paragraphs describing seemingly random images in the life of a man named Case. Case also seems like a totally random person; we told that he is something, and that he used to be something else, but we have no idea what those 'somethings' actually are until later in the book when we manage to cobble it all together.In general, Neuromancer is very fragmented. Almost every paragraph deals with a different point in time and space than the previous one, and they all begin in medias res, so the reader is – at least in the beginning – perpetually confused. In other novels, after the initial shock of being thrown into the middle of a story, the reader would slowly get to know what is actually happening (and where); here, he only has time to register the unfamiliar setting before being thrown elsewhere. This has an interesting side effect: for me, reading Neuromancer was a bit like trying to read something written in a language I'm not yet fluent in – I knew it made sense and understood some of it, but mostly, I had no idea what exactly the names and the phrases referred to.When the prose pauses to describe something in some more detail, however, it's surprisingly evocative:“He'd missed the first wasp, when it built its paperfine gray house on the blistered paint of the windowframe, but soon the nest was a fist-sized lump of fiber, insects hurtling out to hunt the alley below like miniature copters buzzing the rotting contents of the dumpsters. […] He saw the thing the shell of gray paper had concealed.Horror. The spiral birth factory, stepped terraces of the hatching cells, blind jaws of the unborn moving ceaselessly, the staged progress from egg to larva, near-wasp, wasp. In his mind's eye, a kind of time-lapse photography took place, revealing the thing as the biological equivalent of a machine gun, hideous in its perfection.”When I finally managed to put enough pieces together to understand what was going on, I actually began to enjoy the novel. It's the first cyberpunk book I've ever read and I was surprised to find it more intriguing than The Matrix which it inspired (and which I loved). I don't know what exactly it was that drew me to the book so – probably that action is heavily laced with other things, like the mystery of Wintermute and Armitage, the depictions of Villa Straylight and the different parts technology plays in different social groups. I still felt a bit distanced from the story itself, though; maybe it was the jargon that is present throughout the book, but I think the real reason was the general tone of the narration. I don't read much SF precisely because there always seems to be this atmosphere of cold detachment which is also present in Neuromancer – I don't feel especially connected to the characters, even though I might find the book incredibly exciting, as was the case with Neuromancer.I have to say that Neuromancer is a very good novel. I felt it in the way it was written and in the way the images were practically leaping at me from the pages. My reading experience, however, was not so pleasant – the book didn't really grip me until the last third of it, and by then it was too late – even though I felt that my efforts to keep reading have paid off, the fact remains that getting through the first two thirds were a bit of a chore. I've heard that Neuromancer is a love it or hate it type of book, but I don't really agree with that – I think everyone should at least give it a chance. Neuromancer can be a laboured read or a wondrous journey, and I found a bit of both in it.3,5/5[...]

Monthly report: March & April 2011


Because it often happens that I read a book but don't review it (or I take a long time writing a review), I've decided to start posting brief monthly reports on what I read, including a sentence or two about the book if it was not reviewed.I didn't read much in March and April, so I decided to (again) combine the two montly reports. :)Black Man (Richard Morgan): First of 'The Pile specials' I actually managed to read! Black Man was not quite what I expected - it's a bit of an SF detective story, and while the plot had me quite interested, I didn't feel very close to either of the protagonists, I couldn't immerse myself in the story even when I tried and it was overall a very, very slow read. I have to add that these are problems I often encounter when reading SF, though; I'm never sure whether that's due to authors' style or whether it's just me.Swan Song (Robert McCammon): A re-read. Swan Song is a total ripoff of The Stand (I mean it - the end of the world, plethora of characters, good vs. evil faction, supernatural powers on both sides, plethora of characters, a traumatised youngster who falls prey to the 'dark side' and 'the man with the scarlet eye' as the antagonists, ...), but still interesting and gripping enough to be read in one sitting.Matterhorn (Karl Marlantes): While this one doesn't fall under the speculative fiction category, it seemed to be everyone's favourite book of 2010 and so I absolutely had to read it. Turns out that for once, I agreed with the praise I heard about it - the book was an awesome read, and I'm still struggling to describe it in the way that'd do it justice. Matterhorn is about Vietnam war as it really was through the eyes of a young man - mind-numbingly boring and yet incredibly exciting, futile and illogical, a dangerous game. The book was also gripping enough to keep me reading through the night until I finished it, which is always a good thing (unless you have to get up early ;).The Folding Knife (K. J. Parker): this was another one of those curious books that are really intriguing, plot-wise, but at the same time the story is just not gripping enough and you stay somewhere in the middle, reading on because you want to know what happens, while taking your sweet time to do so because you're not that interested after all (and the pace of the book is not exactly fast, either). I know that the characters weren't the problem here - the story centers on Basso whom I actually liked very much - so maybe it was the lack of action? The Folding Knife was good enough that I want to read more by K. J. Parker, but I think it'd greatly benefit from a faster pace.Catching Fire & Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins): These two books haveexactly the pace The Folding Knife is lacking. While I was not as impressed with them as I was with The Hunger Games, I still devoured them - I read both in one sitting, and I don't think this ever happened to me with a series. There are some slight problems with the plot and characters, but this has to be one of the most exciting series I've ever read. (Review upcoming.)[...]

Felix Gilman - The Half-Made World (Book Review)


-Reasons for reading: I enjoyed The Thunderer and was thrilled when I got a review copy of The Half-Made World from Tor.I actually like it when I forget what exactly the book I pick up as my next read is supposed to be about. It seems to me that this way, a book stands a better chance to be a pleasant surprise – and I, like most everyone else, love pleasant surprises. The Half-Made World was a surprise in most every ways, but one aspect of it especially stood out: the amazing steampunk-ish world featured in the novel and the way this world was described and handled throughout the book.Aside from being only half-made, the world Gilman builds in this novel is above all intriguing and depicted in surprising detail. There is the mysterious territory where the world is not yet made; there are lands belonging to Line, a dangerous faction that is all about discipline and hivemind attitude, and neutral countries in the East which care more about science than about world politics. There is also a faction called The Gun, whose agents are spread all over the world; it is led by demons who possess the weapons of their minions, and there is an ancient, immortal race of the (First) Folk, enslaved by the current residents of the West, and this could sound like a right cliché if the Folk were even remotely similar to elves, which they're not – they have spiderlike legs, deep red eyes and manes, and when I say 'immortal', I not only mean that they don't die unless killed, but that they don't die, ever. There are also the Smilers, the remains of the Red Valley Republic, which was defeated by the Line 20 years before the events in The Half-Made World; sadly, despite the Republic's noble cause – an effort to stand against the Gun and the Line – the Smilers come across as a bunch of brainwashed fanatics hiding deep in the unknown territory. Gilman paints us a world so vast that it could easily fuel a whole series of books and/or inspire dozens of other stories set in the same universe – a world which would be wasted if it were only used in a single novel.We follow the story through the eyes of three protagonists: Sub-Invigilator Lowry, agent of the Line who, despite Line's best efforts, harbours possibly rebellious thoughts of fame and success; Creedmoor, agent of the Gun who, despite Gun's best efforts, harbours definitely rebellious thoughts of doubting his master's competence and planning to escape their grasp, and Dr. Lysvet 'Liv' Alverhuysen, a rather naïve psychologist who travels west with one of her patients, Maggfrid, and also happens to be addicted to her 'nerve tonic'. The three characters all have their own quests, but their paths all intersect and by a series of coincidences, they all end up in the same place on the very border of the made world.The Half-Made World is not all innovative world-building, interesting characters and gripping plot, though. For instance, Liv is the only character that develops considerably in any way. Creedmoor and Lowry are both archetypes – the incredibly loyal servant who worships his masters but at the same time wishes his loyalty were recognised and repaid, and a dashing adventurer who enjoys the company of pretty women and is tired of his eternal servitude. If Creedmor changes at least somewhat throughout the novel, Lowry remains the same despite opportunities to break free of his role, and even though that's perfectly plausible (because Lowry is too scared to change in any way), I must admit I was a bit disappointed. Agatha seems to learn the most from the situations she finds herself in, but even her behaviour is rather predictable – she becomes sympathetic to her captor and shakes off her nerve tonic addiction.Despite the small flaws, The Half-Made World [...]

TV Series: Game of Thrones - Season One (First Impressions)


*mild spoilers ahead* A Song of Ice and Fire is probably my favorite series and book two and book three are one of my favorite books of all time. I watched the first episode yesterday evening with Trin who's just as big a fan as I am. She also reread the first three books recently and loved them immensely even though she feared they would lose some of the shine the second time around.I really want to rave about episode one, I want to tell you how friggin' good it is, I really do, but I can't. It is good though, even great in some aspects, but it's not as good as I wanted it to be. I guess it's impossible to reach high standards that the novels set up for me. So yes, I have to say I'm disappointed...but just a bit, the potential is there. Maybe it would feel different, if I wouldn't know what's going to happen in advance and suspension would grip me tight, but it's also a possibility that I just might have felt lost with all the exposition being thrown my way and by the background story. I missed moments when a simple dialogue line or a short silence filled with meaning rise goosebumps on your skin. I missed the hook.I appreciate the artistic idea for the intro, but it feels like the cogs and the wheels were a bit off key with the general atmosphere and setting. I didn't really care for the music, which means that while I don't think it's bad at all, but it also doesn't make me want to buy the original sound track.Scenery is...faithful to the books, which is a good thing for the most part. I especially savoured The Wall and the short panorama shorts of King's Landing. The scene in godswood was also enjoyably eerie. I hoped Winterfell would look more imposing and forbidding. As it turned out it was more like a rowdy village-fort, but I guess there's gritty northern appeal to that as well.Arya, Brann, Cersei, and King Robert to an extent, but especially Tyrion were brilliant. Both child actors felt like transformed from the books, but it's reasonable to expect that it's much easier to portray a tom-boy and a reserved boy with little dialogue than a fully grown individual who's riven with conflicting emotions and motivations. When I saw Cersei on trailer movies I was dismayed, because I visualized her differently (her looks go towards classical beauty, but I always pictured her like a blond porn-star -- without over-sized body attributes ofcourse -- comparable to early Jenna Jameson or Krystal Steal, but with downplayed wantonness), but she transforms the b**** from the books (pardon my french) into a more wholesome and complex character. This gives the "evil" Lannisters another human face from the start which produces a more believable antagonism between the two houses. I don't think many people are aware how ugly Tyrion should be, with dwindling strands of hair, mismatched eyes and an appearance of a much older man while he's still in his twenties, but for what it's worth, Dinklage's performance is indeed stellar. King Robert was the other person I was dismayed when considering previews. The actor seemed more inclined towards "milder" roles, but I must say he plays the raucous king pretty damn well. I also relished the brief appearances of Jorah Mormont and Benjen Stark.Performance from Viserys and Caitlin was equally enjoyable, if only a bit less impressive. Visery's conveyed the ambition and impetuousness from his literary inspiration well, but I missed the streak of Targaryen madness running through him. Cat is shown more as a caring mother than a woman obsessed with the well-being of her litter, which is also great, given the fact that her single-minded determination dismayed many fans and casual readers. Jamie was OK, but there was something about the final scene that d[...]

Monthly report: January & February 2011


Because it often happens that I read a book but don't review it (or I take a long time writing a review), I've decided to start posting brief monthly reports on what I read, including a sentence or two about the book if it was not reviewed.Since I didn't do a Monthly report for January yet, I'll bundle it together with the February report. :)I've read a lot - considering that I had exams and everything - in both January and February. March has been slow going in comparison, but I still have a week left. I can read a lot in a week. :PThe Passage (Justin Cronin): Thrinidir found this one for me I didn't need a lot of convincing to buy it - a post-apocalyptic book that's being compared to The Stand? I'm sold.The Passage didn't disappoint - it was more than decent, even though it's not terribly innovative or incredibly well written. It's a very enjoyable read despite that, and even though the last third of the book made me suspect that the ending will be corny as hell, I was proven wrong (and liked it).Mr. Shivers (Robert Jackson Bennett): I've expected much, much more from this book. This was yet another title from someone's best of 2010 list, so naturally, I expected the book to be at least decent, but it left me completely cold. Not that it was horrible, but it was incredibly predictable and gave me the feeling that the author wrote it in a hurry. (Review upcoming)Neuromancer (William Gibson): Usually, my uni obligations do nothing to help me with my TBR pile, but this time around, they actually did ... I had to read Neuromancer for a paper I was writing, and I enjoyed it a lot. I can see why it is a classic, and I can also understand why so many people dislike it. As a read, it was a bit confusing at first, but I got hooked in the last third of the book and was glad that I didn't give up on it. (Review upcoming)Horns (Joe Hill): I actually don't have much to say about this one. I enjoyed it, but it was not as good as I'd expect (I saw it on numerous Best of 2010 lists). I also hoped that the author would focus on the whole 'horns that make you speak exactly what's on your mind' thing, but the book ended up being very similar to the wonderful Book of Joby by Mark J. Ferrarri - only with Ig being more like Joby in reverse. (Review upcoming)Kraken (Chine Miéville): Ah, Kraken. How can such a disappointing novel hide behind such a great cover art? I loved The City and The City, I loved Un Lun Dun and I really wanted to love Kraken, too. I mean, it's a book about a giant squid, what is there not to like? Sadly, I found plenty of things I didn't like about Kraken, and by the time I got near the end of it, I had long stopped caring about the characters. I can't help but think that I somehow got the wrong novel, that there must be another Kraken, the one that everyone loved. (Review upcoming)The Half-Made World (Felix Gilman): This was one of the novels that actually lived up to its reputation. The Half-Made World is exactly what I was looking for - well-written steampunk with vivid imagery. The protagonists were a tad archetypal, but my journey through Gilman's half-made world was still enjoyable. (Review upcoming)The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins): This novel was a huge surprise for me - I really didn't expect much from it, but I ended up completely enamored with it. I read it in one sitting and enjoyed it immensely. (Review upcoming)The Road (Cormac McCarthy): A long overdue re-read, again for uni-related stuff. What can I say? I'm still convinced that The Road deserves to be called a post-apocalyptic literature classic.(You can read Thrinidir's review of The Road here).The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K. Le Guin): Another re-read for the same[...]

The Pile - February '11


The TBR pile - we all have one and it grows faster than we can read. Mine is no exception. I thought it might be interesting to round up and present all of my recent acquisitions once a month, so ... here we go.I'm happy to say that February was a month when I bought less books than I read. Yay me! I'm also sorry for posting this so late. I guess 'beter late than never' is becoming my new motto. K. J. Parker: The Folding KnifeThis one was on so many Best of 2010 lists that I absolutely had to buy it. I already own the first book of The Engineer trilogy, but I think I'll start with this one. Reading priority: high.Paolo Bacigalupi: The Windup GirlBacigalupi's collection of short stories, Pump Six and Other Stories, has been on my wishlist for some time, but it took so long for it to get published in paperback edition that I got tired of waiting and bought The Windup Girl (which was also praised all over the Internet) instead. Of course, after I bought it, I read some negative reviews on it and found out that the Pump Six paperback has been out since October. Just my luck, I guess. Reading priority: medium. Dennis Lehane: Shutter IslandI bought this one because I liked the movie and because I adore unreliable narrators. The only problem is that I still remember what the twist was all about, so I either have to wait until I forget it or try to enjoy the book despite knowing what it's all about. For now, I'll try waiting a bit; reading priority is therefore low.I also bought The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell, but since I've already read it, I'll describe it in the Monthly report for February.The Pile SpecialI bet you know the feeling when you have a book on your TBR pile that seemingly everyone has read and praised, but you still haven't gotten around to reading it. I have plenty of those, and I will select and present one every month. My goal? To read it ASAP, preferably during the next month. This month's special is:Richard Morgan: Black ManThis one has been sitting on my shelf for at least two years now. I'd read Morgan's Steel Remains and loved it, but since he is primarily known as an SF author, I wanted to read one of his SF novels as well. I choose Black Man because of all the positive reviews it got ... and never touched it again.[...]

Adrian Tchaikovsky - Empire in Black and Gold (Book Review)


-Reasons for reading: I've had it for ages and it seemed to me that I really need to read it alreadyOn a world populated by human-insect and human-arachnid creatures, each type of kinden has special powers and aptitudes. The otherwise average Stenwold Maker, a Beetle kinden, is caught up in times full of violence and impending war with the Wasps. He takes it upon himself to create a small cadre of resistance fighters before it is too late. Unfortunately, he keeps being ignored by the people in power - but he still tries to do his best to prepare for the onslaught he anticipates, even if it means sending his beloved apprentices into danger.The beginning of The Empire in Black and Gold awoke a strong feeling of predictability that lingered throughout the book. I liked the idea of insect-like races and the variety of their attributes, but the plot that the reader follows in the opening chapters – a group of apprentices, one of whom is clumsy and seemingly untalented, are sent on a quest by their master – is hardly something new.Unfortunately, it doesn't grow any less predictable. Che, the clumsy apprentice, seems to forget her clumsiness as soon as the adventure starts; despite being described as a bad fighter, she is never shown to be a burden to the others – even more, she takes a part, however small, in fighting scenes. Throughout the book, her abilities blossom without any real explanation or reason, and she becomes a full-fledged heroic protagonist …. but I found myself secretly hoping that, for once, her path will not be so very smooth.Other characters are pretty archetypal as well. Stenwold is the wise mentor who regrets having to send his beloved apprentices into danger, Tynisia is an elegant swordsman of incredible beauty and cunning, Totho is a lowborn, but incredibly talented artificer … I would be hard-pressed to find a character that doesn't immediately fall under some category of clichés.The curious thing is that despite everything I've just mentioned, I enjoyed reading The Empire in Black and Gold. The plot and the characters' behavior might be predictable, but they're far from boring; their adventures are gripping (if not fast-paced), made even more so by multiple POVs which exchange at the exactly right pace – not often enough to become annoying, not slow enough to get boring as it so often happens. The only thing that bothered me was that chapters frequently ended in cliffhangers; I'm not against those, but I don't like to see them overused as I prefer it when the tension is interwoven with the plot and not created artificially with cliffhangers, especially when the events transpiring are nothing much and cliffhangers are only there to give the reader the false impression that something exciting is going on.Nevertheless, The Empire in Black and Gold was a nice enough book. Though archetypal (or maybe because of it?), the characters were likeable enough and the relations between them interesting. The images from Stenwold's past also added a a certain flavour that is so often missing in the more generic epic fantasy novels. Shadows of the Apt series is far from ASOIAF, but it's a more than adequate novel to read while we're waiting for A Dance With Dragons*, even more so because it seems that Tchaikovsky has no problem with productivity (7 of the 9 books in Shadows of the Apt series are already published, with Heirs of the Blade on the way). Recommended – just don't expect anything overly creative.3,5/5*not much longer now, I hope ... :)__________________________Sory for the lack of reviews in the last month and a half. February (like June and September) [...]

A Dance With Dragons


Is going to see the light of day on July 12. This is not a bullshit date (barring a tsunami or multiple tsunamis or so George says). Fans all over the world: you can but rejoice.

Until then, this should do the trick to keep your appetites whet.

And while you're at it, don't forget to order The Wise Man's Fear. The Name of the Winds is just that good.

The Pile - January '11


The TBR pile - we all have one and it grows faster than we can read. Mine is no exception. I thought it might be interesting to round up and present all of my recent acquisitions once a month, so ... here we go.This January, the number of new additions to the pile was exceptionally high as a direct result of all the Best of 2010 lists that were posted all around the blogosphere in December. I had to buy some of the favourites to see whether they're really that good. Some of them disappointed, some did not, and some are still waiting for me to pick them up and read them.Nick Harkaway: The Gone-Away WorldThis one is not a 2010 book, but still one I've heard lots and lots of good things about. It's post-apocalyptic, a genre for which I have a soft spot, and the blurb on the back describes it as 'equal part raucous adventure, comic odyssey and romantic epic'. Reading priority: high.Suzanne Collins: The Hunger GamesThis one, too, was not published in 2010, but I admit I first heard of Suzanne Collins when there was a great buzz around the blogosphere about the concluding book in the Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay. The Hunger Games tells a story of sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, set in a post-apocalyptic (yes, again) US where people are kept in check by the Capitol in which they live. Reading priority: high.Catherynne M. Valente: PalimpsestPalimpsest is another book I've heard a lot of praise about, but I bought it mostly because I immensely enjoyed Valente's Orphan Tales. It's a book about four travellers who enter the mysterious city of Palimpsest, 'and what they will find [there] is more than they could ever imagine'. Reading priority: medium.Felix Gilman: The Half-Made World(courtesy of Tor Books)A steampunkish story set in a world that is only half-made, three POVs that couldn't be more different from each other and an old man whose damaged mind keeps a great secret. The Half-Made World found its place on many Best of 2010 lists; I also enjoyed Gilman's Thunderer, so The Half-Made World was a must-have for me. Reading priority: high.Other books I've bought in January were Justin Cronin's The Passage, China Miéville's Kraken, Joe Hill's Horns and R. J. Bennett's Mr. Shivers, but since I've already read those, I'll describe them in Monthly Report for January.The Pile specialI bet you know the feeling when you have a book on your TBR pile that seemingly everyone has read and praised, but you still haven't gotten around to reading it. I have plenty of those, and I will select and present one every month. My goal? To read it ASAP, preferably during the next month. This month's special is:Mark Charan Newton: Nigths of VilljamurEveryone seems to like it. I've had it for ages, it's in hardcover, and if I remember correctly, we got it from the author himself. I remember being incredibly enthusiastic about it, but I was reading something else at the time, and Nights of Villjamur ended up standing there with the rest of TBR books, never getting read (or reviewed). I think it's time for that to change. :)[...]

Emma Donoghue - Room (Book Review)


-Reasons for reading: read a very positive review of it on Book SmugglersI was very excited about this book, possibly because I'm a student of sociology and the concept of a child growing up in a closed environment is very interesting – I have to wonder what happens when the child is suddenly brought into the 'normal' world and has to become a part of a society (s)he's never before come into contact with.The plot of Room itself is pretty shocking, once we get past the initial introduction and put the pieces together – Jack and his mother are locked up in a room where Jack has spent all of his 5 years of life. His mother is only 27 and, after years of captivity, still hopes to be rescued, sending SOS signals through the window at night and playing a game of 'scream every day but Sunday' with her son.For Jack, it's all just a game or a weird habit of his mother's. As we view the story through his eyes, we don't really get to feel the atmosphere that must be ever present in their tiny room; Jack doesn't have much worries and for him, the Room is all the world he knows, perfectly normal and safe. He is not unhappy, but seems to be completely satisfied living in the Room as long as his mother, who is obviously distressed and often depressive, is by his side. Jack cannot perceive his mother's suffering; he is only a child and his POV leads us to believe that the situation is not nearly as dire as it actually is.As most children, Jack is able to adapt fairly quickly whenever the situation changes. Sure, he doesn't like it at first, and is a bit confused, but later on, he seems almost indifferent to new situations. Around him, things happen and change, but Jack cares only about things he always cared about – his mother, his toys, Dora the Explorer … Through his eyes, even the most incredible twists and turns in his life are of the same importance as things that seem perfectly ordinary to us, like going to the mall or getting a new toy. This gives reader something to think about, of course, but also leaves him longing for something more.And here's where Room disappointed me. Throughout the book, Jack and especially his mother encountered different problems and lived through some important changes in their lifestyle. But the child POV, which was meant to bring us even closer to the story and the characters, was not really the best choice for the story Donoghue was trying to tell. Jack, being only five, doesn't have much personality; I was longing to hear the tale from Jack's mother, who would probably shed a different light on the story, but sadly, Jack remains the sole POV throughout the book. His mother's suffering and problems are much greater than Jack's, but as he cannot understand them, we only catch glimpses of what his mother's going through, and even those are rare – we probably see more of the average person's incompetence with handling a child that grew up in a tiny room than Jack's mother's trauma.Room is not exactly what various reviews and blurbs on the cover led me to believe. Even though Jack is the POV, I felt that the real protagonist was his mother – but she got to explain her actions and feelings at only one, fairly short, point in the book. Room has a lot of potential – the plot itself is great, the style is OK, characters are well developed – but the bad POV choice is all that was needed to leave that potential unused. However cute the child POV might be, it lacks the intensity to make Room all it wanted to be. 3/5[...]

Ursula Le Guin - Lavinia (Book Review)


- -Reasons for reading: I've had it for ages and I remembered that it was supposed to be goodLavinia – a character that got no lines in the Aeneid, just a brief mention, but I guess it intrigued Le Guin enough that she put Lavinia as the sole narrator of this novel, and I'm glad it is so.It is clear from the very beginning that Lavinia is a retelling of the story of Aeneas and how he came to Italy, just from another point of view (so there will be no spoilers in this review ;). What I found amazing was that nonetheless, Le Guin managed to make this 'old' story not only interesting, but also very touching.Lavinia is an unusual POV for this retelling; I'm more used to retellings where a new light is shed on an old, existing protagonist, which is not the case here. However, Lavinia's POV was a good idea, since she is not only a lively (and sometimes stubborn) character, but also a princess, which puts her into a great position to introduce her father's kingdom to the reader. Through her eyes, we are effortlessly introduced to how life in Italy was before Rome was built, and even if the pictures Le Guin paints us are not completely faithful (she herself admitted that she has downplayed the primitivism of the early Italian settlers), the narrative is masterfully done – in some novels, I had to struggle with long descriptions and paragraphs of world-building, but in Lavinia, the world simply grows around us as we read.Lavinia tells us a story about a woman's life, whereas in Aeneid, the protagonists are mostly male – as the world of Aeneid is a male world. Where the recurring themes of Aeneid are hardships of war and travel, the prevalent theme in Lavinia is (however corny it might sound) love. At first, this is not obvious; Lavinia, too, focuses on skirmishes that take part when Aeneas comes to Italy and later, when his son rules in Alba Longa. Lavinia reminisces on the years of her youth before the war, on her meetings with the poet, her creator, who uncovers some of her future and asserts her that his poem will remain unfinished. She describes the war, too, but doesn't tell us much about the fighting; rather, she tells us about the decisions, relations and mishaps that, together, caused the war to happen as it did. The narrative is often interrupted with fragments of Lavinia's life with Aeneas, but these are very brief; the three summers and three winters that were promised to Lavinia and Aeneas pass all too quickly and Lavinia becomes dependent on her stepson's decisions while raising her only son.It slowly becomes clear, though, that Lavinia's three years of happiness were what really determined her and her life. Even though she is always strong, independent and quick to act, she stays emotionally bound to Lavinium, the city Aeneas built her and the place he was buried, and the the sacred place, Albunea, where she met the poet. After Aeneas' death, Lavinia describes in detail how she wilfully stole her son from under his stepbrother's influence, but as he grows to a young man, the narrative becomes less and less detailed, until it simply skims over the remaining events of Lavinia's life. As promised, Lavinia never dies as she lives along with her poem; at the end of her human life, she transforms into an owl:I fly among the trees on soft wings that make no sound. Sometimes I call out, but not in a human voice. My cry is soft and quavering: i, i, I cry: go on, go.Only sometimes my soul wakes as a woman again, and then when I listen I can hear silence, and in the silence his voice[...]

Monthly report: December '10


Because it often happens that I read a book but don't review it (or I take a long time writing a review), I've decided to start posting brief monthly reports on what I read, including a sentence or two about the book if it was not reviewed. I hope you like it :)December 2010 was a busy month for me. After I took a short break from reading in November, I had plenty of time (and books :) to read, so I didn't waste any. Books I've read in December were:_ _ __First three books of ASOIAF (George R. R. Martin): a long overdue re-read. I was really scared that I might not enjoy these anymore - after all, it's been at least five years since I read them first (and last) - and I was thrilled to see that my worries were unnecessary. ASOIAF is still the best series out there.Empire in Black and Gold (Adrian Tchaikovsky): didn't expect much, didn't get much. It wasn't a disappointment for me as it was for some other bloggers, but I think that was mostly so because I missed all the hype. Still, it's a decent fantasy book. (Review upcoming.)Room (Emma Donoghue): this could be a great book if the protagonist were someone else. As it is, it's merely ok-ish, but definitely not what I expected from a Man Booker Prize finalist. (Review upcoming.)Midsummer Night (Freda Warrington): one of the best urban fantasy books I've read lately. It's not extraordinarily good or anything, but it was a pleasant enough read that didn't get too boring or predictable.Lavinia (Ursula Le Guin): I honestly didn't expect anything from this book, especially since I found Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness somewhat odd when I read it three years ago. Lavinia swept me off my feet. (Review upcoming.)[...]

Trin's Best of 2010


-2010 was a year of mostly mediocre books for me, so I was hard-pressed to choose at least 4 that were really good enough to be worthy of the 'best of 2010' title. Additionally, only a couple of books I've read this year were actually 2010 releases, and I've reviewed only two or three of them. Oh well.So, here's my best of '10 list, in no particular order:The Separation (2002) by Christopher PriestWhat can I say? It blew my mind. I've since read The Affirmation and I had a hard time deciding which one of the two was better. Priest's unreliable narrators are simply awesome.(Here you can read what Thrinidir thought about The Separation)The Forest of Hands and Teeth (2009) by Carrie RyanThe one book on this list that I've actually reviewed :) I put it on this list partly because it really was one of the best books I've read this year, but also the most surprising one (in terms of quality).You can read my review of Forest of Hands and Teeth here.The Long Price Quartet (2006-2009) by Daniel AbrahamDefinitely one of the best fantasy series I've read lately. I admit that I've not yet read the last book, but the first three were really good - and, which was even better, the quality went up with every next book (instead of down, as it so often happens). I honestly liked all of it - the setting, the characters, the plot.Lavinia (2008) by Ursula Le Guin This was my last (finished) read of 2010. I heard a lot of praise for Lavinia, but I hardly imagined that it will be that good. It was really nice, finishing a year of mostly unimpressive books with an unexpectedly good one.Lavinia will be reviewed here; I'll probably put the review online next week.Biggest Disappointments:Empress by Karen Miller. First book I was unable to finish in a long, long time, partly because the plot was going nowhere, partly because the protagonist was so incredibly annoying.The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan. After the surprisingly good first installment in the series, I expected something equally good from the second book, but got a lukewarm plot and boring protagonist instead.Books I expect most in 2011:The Islanders by Christopher Priest -this will be his first novel in a long time and I'm curious what it will bring.The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss - I liked The Name of the Wind, but this book will probably decide whether I'll keep following the series or not.The Cold Commands by Richard Morgan - I got the impression that not many people liked The Steel Remains, but I actually enjoyed it. I just hope that the sequel will be as good or better.His Father's Fist by Matthew Stover - Yay! ^^ After Blade of Tyshalle, which was great, I found Caine Black Knife a bit disappointing, mostly because it was very short and ended, if I remember correctly, with a huge cliffhanger. Naturally, my hopes for His Father's Fist are high.Last, but not least, let me wish you all a happy 2011 :) May it bring as much joy as possible.[...]

Freda Warrington - Midsummer Night (Book Review)


-Reasons for reading: I got a review copy from the publisher (Tor)Gil wants to escape from the world, so she books a cottage on an estate belonging to Lady Juliana Flagg, a famous sculptor. Much to Gil's dismay, Lady Flagg's annual art school is taking place on the same estate, meaning Gil won't be as far from other people as she wanted to be. Despite her best efforts to stay away from other people, she stumbles onto a path into Otherworld, the realm of faeries, and forms a new friendship. And while friendship is going swimmingly, the Otherworld only brings trouble – first of them being a young boy who seeks shelter in Gil's cottage.(This is what Midsummer Nights is actually about. I don't know who wrote the original summary, but it is full of weird mistakes.)Midsummer Night is a second part of the Aetherial Tales series (first part being Elfland), but even though I didn't read Elfland, I didn't feel like I've missed anything – Midsummer Night can easily be read as a standalone novel. It's been a long time since I've read an urban fantasy book that dealt with the fairy world, and even those I've read last were all YA books, so I was happy to see one written for adults. Luckily, Midsummer Night didn't disappoint.One of the first things I've noticed was that the troubled protagonist was very well written. Gill, suffering from PSD, is a perfect example of the 'show, not tell' principle - staying in character throughout the first few chapters, being paranoid and filled with irrational guilt, feeling asocial and broken. Her thoughts are full of pessimism, she doesn't know how to act with other people and everything she sees reminds her of the event that caused it all:“What was it like, to be part of such a clique? Dangerous, maybe. You could find yourself suddenly rejected by the pack, alone and broken.”Later on, though, Gill gets over her fears and negative feelings; she becomes much more normal and likeable, but also less interesting as a character. The plot of Midsummer Night is pretty generic, but since the book is well-written, I didn't mind it that much. It seemed to me that Warrington was not really trying to give us anything new or unique, but rather trying to write a decent genre book. I was also happy to see that she was aware that the whole 'I accidentally wandered into Otherworld' thing has been around for ages and therefore didn't overdo it – instead of dwelling on Gill's disbelief for a chapter or two, Warrington moves on with the story instead.Sadly, after the first few chapters, the plot deteriorates a bit – it becomes a very typical urban fantasy plot, with protagonists moving to and fro between Earth and Otherworld and some romance tossed in for good measure. This could become boring very quickly, especially as the Otherworld parts were one of the least interesting in the book, but luckily, the parallel plotline saves the day – dealing with Lady Juliana Flagg's history, it was much more entertaining; I would actually be perfectly happy even if the Otherworld parts (or most of them) had not even been in the book.While Midsummer Night was not one of my favourite books of 2010, it certainly was one of the best urban fantasy books I've read lately. Warrington obviously knows how to write and if the plot is a bit generic, the very lifelike characters and the family secrets more than make up for it. All in all – enjoyable.3,5/5________________________________They say it's better l[...]

Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged (Book Review)


--Reasons for reading: I've heard that it's a good post-apocalyptic book.Dagny is a confident young executive of Taggart Transcontinental, a railroad company which is but a shade of its former glory due to difficult economic situation and incompetent leadership. While Dagny is determined not to let her company sink, other successful bussinessmen crumble under the pressure of the government and unfair competition. To save her company, Dagny has to take a leap of faith - she enters a bussiness partnership with Hank Rearden, the inventor of the supposedly brilliant, but as of yet untested new alloy, Rearden Metal. As soon as I've read the first few chapters, I realised that Atlas Shrugged is definitely not a post-apocalyptic book. I was nevertheless captivated by Rand's prose, the plot was interesting and protagonist likeable, if a bit of an implausible character. It seemed to me that Atlas Shrugged will probably be a very good read – until I began reading the second part of the book.While the first part is more plot-oriented, Rand uses the second part of Atlas Shrugged to present her dystopian future to the reader. As promised in the blurbs and various reviews, her ideas and world-views are unusual, sometimes even radical, but what bothered me most were the inconsistencies and improbabilities.In Rand's dystopian world, law works in weird ways. There seems to be no constitution that would interfere with the new laws that are constantly being passed; the latter just spring into being with incredible ease that doesn't seem very realistic. The book is set in a time of changes, yet there is no explanation whatsoever of how the present situation came to be. That, too, nagged at me while I was reading, especially as the situation mentioned is very unlikely by itself – in every single major industry, there is but one competent person on whom absolutely everyone relies. Of course, this makes for a very nice setting for the point Rand wants to prove (remove the competent people and the economy collapses), but it still looks like a very implausible background to build your story on, not to mention that the lack of explanation is somewhat surprising, since Rand obviously did lot of research on various subjects such as the organisation and operation of railway system and various economical situations.The society depicted in Atlas Shrugged is no less strange. The politicians, as far as I've managed to gather, don't have an agenda; their only goal seems to be gathering as many votes as they can, but it seems as they only want to get elected for the power the position would bring them. They let various committees, cobbled together from random wealthy businessmen, decide on matters such as radical changes in the country's economy; at least the politicians still have some power over deciding who gets what materials and, sometimes, which laws will be passed. I couldn't help but wonder – how come? Why is quality of service of no concern to anyone and what happened to consulting with professionals when deciding on important matters?The general public doesn't seem to matter in Atlas Shrugged; even though they're the ones voting, the big fish rarely think about them. There's no mention of the role they play in supporting the economy or how important they are when it comes to selling non-essential products like cosmetics, toys … – the businessmen in Atlas Shrugged deal mostly in steel, trans[...]