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More books March 12, 2009

Posted by thejinx in books.
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Once again, I’ve fallen behind with my book reviews, as they were.  Let’s hope I can remember the ones I’ve read recently with a modicum of accuracy.

Spin, Robert Charles Wilson – Still going through the ebooks I received through Tor.com‘s promotion before the website opened, this is a story of the stars disappearing as the Earth is encased in a shell that significantly slows down time within, so much so that in one generation on Earth, the sun will expand to the point of absorbing the inner planets of the solar system.

The story, of course, is about the main characters, the narrator and his two closest friends, very intelligent but very different fraternal twins.  And the book excels at their interactions with each other and with other people in their lives, their relationships delightfully complex without being frustrating or annoying.  The plot was captivating and original, and the extents to which it was explored were very satisfying.  In all, I’d say this one is a keeper, and worth reading if you get the chance.

Grave Peril, Jim Butcher – Harry Dresden is back in the third book of his namesake series, this time up against rampaging ghosts, vampires, and a faerie godmother that doesn’t know when to quit.

This book hearkened back to the things I loved about the first Dresden Files book, most notably the humour that was disappointingly uncommon in the second book.  Peril also introduces Michael, the Fist of God, a new major character who plays Harry’s partner throughout much of the story.  His presence adds a nice element to the story – Michael contrasts and yet complements Harry well, and the animosity Michael’s wife displays towards Harry makes for some interesting drama as well.  All the mystery, suspense, and danger that kept me reading the first book raptly is present in this one, and it was just as thoroughly enjoyable throughout.

After having read three of the Dresden Files books, however, I am starting to notice a bit of a pattern in the storytelling.  Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing – it’s a winning formula and it’s not followed strictly enough to become predictable – but in general, the story progresses much in the same way as it has in the previous books.  It could be a problem in later books, if it continues, but for now, it’s just a casual observation.

Twilight, Stephenie Meyer – Yes, I read it.  It had been recommended to me by a couple different people before the movie came out last year, and I’m trying to be more open-minded about hyped-up things, so when one of such offered it to me, I decided to oblige.  This is, of course, the story of a high school girl who moves from Phoenix to rural Washington, only to discover vampires inhabit her new home, and more so, she finds she falls for one of them.

The short story is, it’s not bad, but it’s hardly a winner.  Honestly, I had to chuckle while I was reading this, because it read so much like so many stories I’ve read on Fictionpress – not badly written, but teetering on the brink of Mary Sue and trying very hard not to be.  The narration style – which was a little simplistic for my tastes – read just like countless stories of “fictional” high school girls that I’ve read on Fictionpress.  It’s 999,999 in a million, and the characters don’t exactly make up for it.  While not exactly one-dimensional, they’re just not all that interesting, and – much as I like my godly elves and such – the vampires were just a little too AWSUM!!!11 to care about.  And the plot, well, the ultimate conflict has little to do with much of the story and isn’t even hinted at until very late in the book.

I’ve certainly read worse, lots worse.  Twilight was not painful to read, nor was it really boring, but it isn’t something I would recommend unless you’re interested in the series.

Fathom, Cherie Priest – I picked up this hardcover – at list price, which is highly unusual for me – because I loved Priest’s first book, Four and Twenty Blackbirds, which I read last year, and I read her blog enough to know that much of her career rested on the success of this, her first hardcover.  Hoping someday to be published myself, I was happy to contribute to a still budding author whose work I had already enjoyed.

Fathom is a story set in mid-20th-century Florida about ancient gods fighting to resurrect the Leviathan – or prevent doing so – which would destroy this world and create a new one in its place, using two young women as avatars to carry out their instructions.  The reviews I read on Priest’s journal and the dust jacket blurb painted it as a bizarre, epic tale, and I was interested to read it, but it fell short.  The epic nature of it actually hurts it a little, as it’s difficult to connect with the characters the way the story is written.  It also suffered what 4&20bb carefully avoided, a wandering plot.  I really had no idea what was going to happen next, which made things seem to happen for no reason and lessened the importance of the events that occurred.

It certainly wasn’t a bad read, but especially after 4&20bb, it just fell short of expectations.  Still, I don’t regret supporting the author, and I wish her continued success.

Child of a Dead God, Barb & J. C. Hendee – The last book in the first series of this duo’s Noble Dead saga, this story culminates the story of the last five books into Magiere the dhampir’s quest for a mysterious orb sought after by her vampiric half-brother Welstiel.

I picked up Thief of Lives, the second book in the Noble Dead saga, several years ago, and soon acquired the first book and have been following the series since.  Thief of Lives was a fun, fast-paced, action-oriented story of a reluctant vampire hunter called upon to save a bustling city from a gang of ravening undead, with one of the longest, most developed climaxes I’ve ever read.

Child strayed a bit from those roots.  It is a classic fantasy, rife with very traditional elves, magic, fay, and mystical artifacts, with less action and far less humour, very different from what drew me to the series in the first place.  And that’s not really something that can be ignored, either; Child references each of the previous five books and I doubt much of the book would make sense to one who has not read the rest of the series.

And, as the conclusion of that series, it didn’t really satisfy.  Many questions were left unanswered at the end and, without already knowing that it was meant to be the end of a series, I would not have suspected it was.  It is meant as part of a greater saga of books, but there’s only a couple of things at the end of the book that provide any sort of closure, and that mostly has to do with character relationships than with anything story-related.  I was also a little disappointed – though not surprised, based on the lead-up – that one of my favourite characters at least from earlier in the series died somewhat unceremoniously in this book.

Make no mistake; Child was not a bad book.  If the previous books had been different, I probably would have enjoyed it more, and I did still enjoy it.  But it was very different from the last books, and in such a serial story as this, that really affects reception.  With the way this book concluded, and knowing what I do about the next book in the saga, I’m not certain I’m interested in starting the next series.

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