Posts Tagged ‘book review’

Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik

August 17, 2010 Comments off

There is a danger in series that the whole thing can get a little tired. The characters all get a little too comfortable, and pages can go by with nothing really happening. Fortunately, none of that applies to this, the sixth in the Temeraire series. Naomi Novik delivers another cracking read, continuing the story along. This time, the emphasis is on the consequences of actions taken (or not taken) over the course of the previous five books. Even in their supposed exile in the new colony of Australia, Temeraire and William must deal with global events, and consider their own part in those events.

The sixth books makes for a great story in itself, while also setting things up nicely for the next few books.


The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

October 23, 2009 Comments off

This modern work of philosophy is a must-read for anyone who reads. No, really, it’s that good. It is the world seen through the eyes of a child re-told by an author with a child-like view of the world.

The Little Prince has a great deal of charm, with the occasional sting, just so you know. From the stupidity of bureaucracy through to self-destructive behaviour, expressions of love and the vanity of greed and power, this book provides a welcome, gentle poke at society in all its strange forms.

The author urges us to be more like the Prince, and you can tell this is something he wants for himself too. de Saint-Exupery died in 1944, probably shot down over the Mediterranean (he loved the solitude of flying), fortunately for us, his work lives on.

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

October 23, 2009 1 comment

This book could be considered the fourth book in the Baroque Cycle, although it was actually written first. One character features across all four books, but telling you who would count as a spoiler, so I won’t.

Cryptonomicon takes place partly in World War Two, partly in the 1990s. Two stories, each gripping in their own way, gradually connect on the Philippines in a search for Japanese war gold, looted from Asia and hidden away for decades.

As you might expect from the title, a lot of the World War Two action focuses on the codebreaking efforts of the allies, as they race to decode German and Japanese transmissions while also hiding from the enemy their successes.

As with Neal’s other books in this cycle the research has been meticulous and every location is describes briefly, but with incredible authenticity. From the Philippines of the 1990s to Sweden in World War Two, each location becomes almost a character in its own right. I love Neal’s writing so this book was a real treat for me. Highly recommended, along with the three Baroque Cycle books.

Foundling by D.M. Cornish

September 24, 2008 Comments off

Foundling starts off being a little too Harry Potter. Rossamund, young orpan boy, bullied by the bigger boys, mysterious origins, odd adults are inexplicably kind to him, etc. Luckily this all stops quite quickly and we find Rossamund travelling the road through strange lands.

As a travelling book this one travels extremely well.

The lands are permanently menaced by monsters, and the brave monster hunters travel the lands to hunt them down and keep people safe. As Rossamund travels, he discovers this isn’t quite as straightforward as he grew up believing and there is fairness to be found in the so-called monsters, and it is often people who offer the greater threat.

This fantasy novel is firmly on the technology side of things, with firearms, optics, chemistry, and even electricity playing their part in the tale.

This is the first book in a trilogy so there is no ending as such, more a ‘to be continued…’ The last hundred or so pages are taken up with an illustrated glossary to introduce us to the world and its odd names for things. Which is nice.

The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

September 19, 2008 Comments off

I picked this book up out of curiosity, with no specific expectations. I’ve never seen the film. I did think that it would be good to read fantasy written by someone from outside the West. In that I was not disappointed.

A healthy pensioner in shorts with a video camera – that’s the prosperity of the West.” You don’t get quotes like that in the usual run of fantasy books.

I enjoy books that present you with their setting once, and then get on with exploring what is happening to the characters within that setting. The Night Watch is one such book. Set in modern day Moscow, it concerns Anton, a lowly member of the Night Watch. Their duty is to keep tabs on vampires, werewolves and other agents of the Dark. Not eliminate, but license and control. The Night Watch is similar to books by Kim Wilkins and Jason Nahrung, the melding of the modern and the supernatural in a believable, compelling, and everyday sort of way.

This book is sufficiently different, having emerged from modern Russia rather than a Western University. The Russian humour of the characters may escape some readers, so allow me to help by showing example of the following Russian joke.

In the immediate aftermath of Chernobyl, the critical need to seal the destroyed reactor in concrete. A series of robots were sent up to do the work. The American robot failed after ten minutes. The Japanese robot failed after twenty minutes. Finally, they sent up a Russian robot. After two hours, the Russian robot was still working, so the supervisor called up “Private Ivanov! You may now come down for a twenty minute cigarette break!”

Now you know all you need to about Russian humour.

If all The Night Watch were was an interesting perspective it would be a mere curio. Luckily the story is worth following, and the characters interesting. A Cold War version of the X-Files might look something like this. I liked it.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

September 12, 2008 Comments off

A cutthroat city and a band of thieves add up to a great fantasy novel. Like other modern fantasy worth reading (Game of Thrones) the ‘fantasy’ element is kept light, and therefore more meangful when it appears.

The vanished Eldren left delicate glasslike structures around the city that cannot be marked or desotryed, but they can be built around.

Locke Lamora is a thief and trickster, and at the start of the novel we see him and his gang enacting a truly epic advance feee fraud scam on two of the local nobility. The scheme gets shaky after Locke is caught up in struggles within the criminal underworld.

I’ll say no more of the story. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. This book is highly recommended.

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Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott

September 3, 2008 Comments off

I picked up this book after Taryn said she liked it – that was good enough for me.

Spirit Gate is a fantasy book set in the land of The Hundred, a European-esque land of isolated cities. The cities are presided over by the Reeves, who keep to their own castles beyond the cities and ride giant eagles around the countryside. The Reeves are responsible for meting out justice. When a crime is reported a Reeve flies out, takes statements from people and makes a decision.

This works as well as you think.

When shadowy or simply greedy forces bend the law to suit their own ends, the Reeves are powerless to act. They must be, since they do not. Eventually the Reeves themselves are discredited or ignored, or else allied with the armed groups wandering the land, killing at will.

I’m not sure what this series is about, even after 600 pages. There are the vanished Guardians who may be about to return, or something. Who knows? It’s interesting enough, and fantasy tragics will find pages worth turning before the next Raymond Feist book.

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