27 Dec 2021

Harrow the Ninth


Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

I am coming to the realization that reading once through this series sequentially does not constitute having "read" it.

It's like. Each word is vast. It is meticulous although it is channelling some gigantic superhuman force that clearly thwarts meticulosity. And its narrative is clearly pushing towards some monumental revelation.

But it resists being read cover-to-cover; I believe it must be un-covered. Ie., there is too much to remember to understand what has happened by the time it's over. I read it on Kindle, but I am mulling paper copies so I can navigate quicker.

In short, I'm very glad to have found these books, but having finished I'm not sure if I have actually read them.

4 Dec 2021

Le restaurant de l'amour retrouvé

Le restaurant de l'amour retrouvé, Ito Ogawa tr. Myriam Dartois-Ako

Excellent, short book with a depth unexpected from its easy tone. Reminds me of Milan Kundera.

7 Nov 2021

Humble Pi


Humble Pi, Matt Parker

Very nice.


20 Oct 2021

Kalpa Imperial


Kalpa Imperial, Angelica Gorodischer tr. Ursula Le Guin

Should have been better. Very imaginative. Very epic. But just kind of overall bored.

It's strange because I have previously noticed that I like when Ursula Le Guin—when she is an author and not translating as here—is actually great when she's boring. By that I mean that there is something both powerful and peaceful in her the slowness and calm with which she treats her alien characters, themes and landscapes. In Kalpa however, while I see a very close match in Gorodischer and Le Guin's styles, I feel a remoteness that fails to let me be captivated by the story. It kind of feels like Gorodischer expects me to know her planet without telling me enough about it.

It's too bad, because it is a book of scale more staggering than I have seen elsewhere.

30 Aug 2021

Gideon the Ninth


Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

Worth reading for the language itself. Check out that first sentence.

What follows is an incredibly promising story, warped imagination, drama, dialogue, tension, wit and jokes until the last page. It's just that that last page is a bit disappointing, the resolution feeling a bit cheap.

It's good enough that I'm reading the sequel and enjoying it. This is like Neuromancer meets ummm... The Addams Family? Never seen anything like it, and the flaw I feel a less challenging book might have avoided is more than made up for by Gideon's irreverent literacy.

9 Aug 2021

Shibumi


Shibumi, Trevanian tr. Anne Damour

Super good story. A little compressed though. There's a fairly uneventful section on spelunking in the middle whose purpose I understand but of whose length I am a little unsure.

Nevertheless, the book shows an extraoridnary balance, making me think that maybe the middle is long for a mystic reason at which my shallow mind can only grasp.

On a personal note, Shibumi argues very strongly against American–and American-influenced Western–culture. I am looking at North Americans in a new light after this.


Lavinia


Lavinia, Ursula Le Guin

Well-told story in Le Guin's characteristically calm depth.


1 Aug 2021

Nineteen Eighty-Four


Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell

Bad, then good, then really bad.

I've always felt that one should read all books that draw one's curiosity, but this book is one I would prefer to read about rather than read.


24 May 2021

The Seeress of Kell


The Seeress of Kell, David Eddings

Much too short.


30 Apr 2021

Sorceress of Darshiva


Sorceress of Darshiva, David Eddings

Too short.


18 Apr 2021

Demon Lord of Karanda


Demon Lord of Karanda, David Eddings

Book Three of The Malloreon.

Very good stuff, as usual. Excellent move onto a new continent, once again an unexpected volume of playful imagination.

2 Apr 2021

King of the Murgos

King of the Murgos, David Eddings

Book Two of The Malloreon.

This is where The Malloreon starts to feel like a "Better Belgariad."

Let's be clear: this is an escapist fantasy series. We are looking for obvious heros with obvious powers that overcome mighty enemies. But we want that to take some time. We therefore have a quest, literally laid out in advance (and I mean the word "literally" literally), which we know will take five books, and which we know will follow the same path as the previous series.

If we can accept that we will not be surprised by the outcome, then we can immerse ourselves in the details: the language of writers who are clearly amusing themselves, the interplay of caricature and developed characters, and the modernization, the moral improvement on some of the themes that left the first series with some questionable taste. Finally, it is satisfying to puzzle out the little conundra that the group of heros continually get themselves into.

If the first series was racist (towards imaginary races, but still pricipally racist), then this particular book starts to show ways to move away from that racism. Given - we are still talking about racism between imaginary races, but the message throughout both these series that racism is Ok is somewhat foul. In this this book, we get hints that the authors are re-thinking that message, even if they do not do so fully.

Likewise with sexism, directed at women. In this book we start to get hints that women are equal to men, even if those roles are not fully realized equally. It is more about potential. The trend is going in the right direction.

That re-thinking: that reconsideration of individual character over caricature is what is exciting about The Malloreon and particularly about King of the Murgos. If Leigh and David Eddings had been alive to write a third series today, one feels that there may have been potential for something truly modern.

23 Mar 2021

The Unicorn Quest: Fire in the Star


The Unicorn Quest: Fire in the Star, Kamilla Benko

Kid book.

Pretty good. Some of the resolutions are contrived: like quite often a last-minute character or plot element comes in to undo all the tension.

And yet, I like how we see this writing "process" this way. I don't think all books should be made like this. It feels like Benko could have spent a little bit more time tying up some of the narrative knots and would then have had a series to rival real classics. But it also shows us that making a story is more than writing it.

So the storytelling may be slightly unpolished, but the series is imaginative, it is original, and it creatively inspiring, because the world Benko has built has potential well outside the story.

12 Mar 2021

Guardians of the West

Guardians of the West, David Eddings (x2)

Book One of The Malloreon.

It starts slow, but one must put this in context: one has just finished reading the epic-fun Belgariad, and one wants more.

At that, a slow start is welcome, like a spring coiling, winding.

By the end of this book, we know we're in for a great series.

14 Jan 2021

The Lady in the Lake


Tha Lady in the Lake, Raymond Chandler

Good detective story. Not sure I really followed the unravelling: a little complicated. But overall tasty like pizza.