Saturday, April 7, 2012

Read The Song of the Quarkbeast (Jasper Fforde) last week

Read The Song of the Quarkbeast last week. Its the second book of the Young Adult fantasy trilogy The Last Dragonslayer (also the name of the first book). It was a fun read. There were good mystery adventure elements as the hero, a 16 year old orphan fends off the predations of both the government and a competing magic company.
There is a good balance between fun gags, quirky characters and word play with a 'believable' fast-paced plot with sympathetic good guys and believable bad guys. Much of the humor in the series comes from the hokey way magic is codifed/described and how little respected it is despite the amazing things it is capable of. This is a world where magic carpets are only used to deliver pizza and levitation is only good for landscaping and parking control. This is set against a despotic government that shackles magic users in bureaucracy and oppressive laws restricting the use of magic.
The King stepped up to the royal microphone and gave a long rambling speech that made reference to how proud he was that the hard toil of a blindly trustful citizenry kept him and his family in the lap of luxury while war widows begged on the street, and how he thanked providence that he had been blessed to rule over a nation whose inexplicable tolerance towards corrupt despots was second to none.
The corrupt government would be dark and oppressive if it wasn't also so ineffectual, populated by bumbling bureaucrats and dim-witted aristocrats. Its funny stuff that serves up some social commentary along with the usual plucky kid outsmarting the adults you usually see in YA novels.
I introduced them all and Miss Shard said something about how it was ‘entirely convivial’ and ‘felicitous’ to meet them on ‘this auspicious occasion’, and in return they shook hands but remained wary. It pays to distance oneself from clients, especially ones who use too many long words.
Despite the Young Adult nature of the book it is always fun to read an author who enjoys playing with language.
I bid him goodbye and then took the main road towards Colonel Bloch-Draine’s country estate at Holme Lacy.
Throw in a little light romance and a couple of hokey puns and you have a thoroughly pleasant read. I look forward to the next book in the series The Return of Shandar.

Omnivoracious: The 2012 Hugo Award Finalists Include George R.R. Martin, Mira Grant, and China Mieville

Omnivoracious: The 2012 Hugo Award Finalists Include George R.R. Martin, Mira Grant, and China Mieville:
Best Novel

Among Others, by Jo Walton (Tor)

A Dance With Dragons, by George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra)

Deadline, by Mira Grant (Orbit)

Embassytown, by China Mi�ville (Macmillan / Del Rey)

Leviathan Wakes, by James S. A. Corey (Orbit)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Glen Cook gearing up for new Black Company and Garret PI novels

The Wertzone: Glen Cook gearing up for a new BLACK COMPANY novel:
In an interview with SF Signal, Glen Cook has confirmed that he is planning to write two more Black Company novels. The first, Port of Shadows, will take place between the first two novels of the original trilogy. He has already done some work on this book (in the form of two short stories which will be expanded into the novel) and will make this his next project once some other existing commitments are met.

There will be another book, A Pitiless Rain, which will be set after all the other books in the series. He does not disclose a timeline for this book. He also confirms there will be another Garrett, P.I. novel in the future, with the working title Wicked Bronze Ambition.

Two of my favorite series so good news indeed. I am always up for a new Garrett PI book. I am not the completist I used to be, and the Black Company trilogies are pretty sufficient unto themselves so I hope the books are worth the read. I am not a fan of jumping back in to the timeline and wedging in material. In a weird way I feel cheated. Adding a book to the end could be interesting because the god-like world-changing levels of warfare pretty much hit the ceiling.

However, you cannot discount the skill of a talented author like Glen Cook get the job done.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Finished with Dead To Me by Anton Strout

Finished reading Anton Strout's Dead To Me, the first book of the Simon Canderous Urban Fantasy series. While I have the next three books I don't know if I have the stomach to read the next book let alone the rest of the series.

From the author's site
Book 1 in the continuing adventures of Simon Canderous Welcome to the Department of Extraordinary Affairs Other Division- New York's answer to the underfunded world of paranormal investigation. It’s a job caught up in red tape, memos, and office politics, but its becoming par for the course for recent recruit Simon Canderous. After a life of petty crime and twenty four years of watching his power of psychometry—the ability to divine information solely by touching an object—destroy any chance of a real relationship, he’s joined the forces of Good hoping to gain some control. But when the mysterious ghost of a recently dead woman shows up at the Lovecraft Cafe, he and his mentor must figure out how she fits into a nefarious plot involving the cultists rights movement, a large wooden fish, and the forces of Darkness crushing on him.
You may have a strong grasp of grammar and a decent vocabulary and still manage to create a disappointing book. This was a hard book to get through. I didn't have to stop and guess the authour's intention when parsing a sentence, or halt at a misspelled word or anything like that. Dead To Me passes the technical aspect of writing.
I found the story simplistic and flawed. The protagonist starts with valuable skills and experience, does a couple of random semi-interesting things that more or less leads to a resolution of the basic conflict. The basic point A to point B plot could have been tighter and more original and the description of New York City could have been punchier, but where the book fails is in creating believable characters.
Even though I hated him for his clear headedness, Connor was right
Annoyed by his clear headedness makes sense, even angered can be believed; but hated? Strong emotional outbursts flare and are extinguished without a valid explanation. Rage, love, despondence, all the extremes of emotion are portrayed with little to no reason. Pretty well every character in the book suffers from a lack of consistency and depth.
Relieved that I didn’t have to smack anyone’s bitch up, I waited for Connor to join me at the door.
Strained attempts at "hip" street slang was indicative of the overall failure to supply a unique voice and believable personality to the characters. The character with the British accent was particularly flat.
... was like being caught in a Dead Head’s hair
Anyone with a little knowledge of the Grateful Dead know that its Deadhead. A little bit of research can do a world of wonder. The first line of the Wikipedia page, however, says either one is permissible but the full article only uses Deadhead. Overall the book felt poorly researched leading to a shallow world.
Strained metaphors, flat two-dimensional characters, 'witless' witty repartee, and a story that is both humorless and undramatic. I can say that I value reading this book just so I can appreciate how hard it is to write a good genre novel. I picked up the book because I read a post by Partrick Rothfuss (Name of the Wind and Wise Man's Fear) that praised his friend Anton Strout. I didn't realize that the emphasis was likely on friendship more than an enthusiasm for the book.
All the negativity aside, I did manage to get through the book fairly quickly. The rest of the Simon Canderous series may be quite good. I may eventually pick up the second book.