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21 March 2006 @ 07:37 am
Books  
Been a long time since i've talked much about books



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Ray Bradbury - "From the Dust Returned"

The basic story is about a mysterious house inhabited by a family of supernatural creatures who may be vampires or may be something else.

I haven't read a great deal of Ray Bradbury, so i don't know what his style is like in general. In this particular book however he was _very_ descriptive. A little too descriptive in fact. I had a tendency not to be able to see the plot for the descriptions. Perhaps if i'd been reading it instead of listening to it on audiobook it would have gone a little better, but it seemed that he would spend twenty or thirty seconds or more describing something that could have been done in a sentence or two. By the time he was done i'd often half lost track of what he was originally talking about and not sure if i cared anymore. The descriptions themselves were good though, so if you care more for flowery language than plot you may like it more than i did.

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Margaret Atwood - "Oryx and Crake"

Part "Snow Crash"esque corporate dystopia and part post-apocalypse. There's lots of skipping about in time but it's pretty easy to figure out which of the two came first :) You do spend a lot of the novel trying to figure out how exactly they got from point A to point B going by the hints and references that are dropped through the first half or so of the novel. Needless to say since it's both a somewhat-dystopia and a post-apocalyptic story it gets a bit depressing at times. More of a problem to me was that the end was totally and deliberately ambiguous which is a little frustrating to those who like to know the end of the story.

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Susanna Clarke - "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell"

Takes place in a slightly alternate er, not Victorian, um, Napoleonic England? The main difference is of course the existence of magic. There was a rather large diversion back in the middle ages when England was split into two kingdoms for a period of about 300 years (at least i don't know of any such event in real history, i might just be ignorant =) but it doesn't seem to have had any lasting effect on the historical timeline. At the beginning of the book the great ages of magicians are in the past and the study of magic has become a leisure activity for gentlemen. This study being of a purely historical and theoretical nature since as much as they might wish otherwise none of these "magicians" can actually get any spells to work. Sooner or later of course someone shows up who can actually use magic and starts the primary plotline going (in the interest of maintaining some degree of suspence i shall leave it to the reader to determine whether that someone is Jonathan Strange or Mr. Norrell ;) The book is very long, mainly because of the great detail used and because of the numerous "historical" footnotes about magic spread throughout the book, but unless you demand constant action and adventure it never seems to drag on. The style and detail give a very good impression of the time period (or at the very least what we expect that time period to be like i suppose) so i expect anyone with a strong interested in both history and fantasy will enjoy it. I was going to recommend to coraa that she get a copy but she managed to anticipate the recommendation :)

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Lian Hearn - "Tales of the Otori" ("Across the Nightingale Floor," "Grass for His Pillow," and "Brilliance of the Moon")

A trilogy of fantasy novels set in an alternate japan. (During the Warring States period, several years after a battle similar to but not identical to Sekigahara.) Takeo grows up in a small mountain village but then tragedy strikes and in the aftermath he discovers that he's inherited strange mystical powers which make him a target to those who wish to use him for their own ends. Meanwhile Kaede has grown up as a noble hostage in the castle of one of the victors of the Sekigahara-like battle. She's the heir of a moderately powerful domain and has strong links to yet another domain and so expects to be traded off in a marriage of alliance. (What do you want to be that these two meet up at some point? =) It sounds rather cliched (and in fact i could have made it sound even more cliched than that pretty easily =) but i thought it was actually quite good, especially if you're interested in the equivalent period of earth history. Like Joanathan Strange and Mr. Norrell it does a good job of presenting the culture, but at much less length (though again, i suppose it may be just a view of what a gaijin expects from a japanese-esque culture.) There was also a little bit of prophecy thrown in in the later books, but i actually appreciated it in this case because because it was more of an ancient greek type prophecy and the way that knowledge was handled by the main characters was interesting. There are some depressing bits to the series though, not everyone you like is going to make it through to the end, though it's not another "Song of Ice and Fire" by any means. (And as an aside that won't matter to most people, they got two really good voice actors for the audiobook version, one male and one female to cover the different sets of chapters by the two main characters.)

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Christopher Paolini - Eragon

For awhile i was hearing things like this was supposed to be the next Harry Potter or something, but i wasn't really that impressed. It seemed like a rather simple combination of Tolkein, Le Guin's Earthsea, and either Mercedes Lackey or Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders, and all in all came across as rather cliched. You've got your stereotypical elves and dwarves, you've got your dragon-riders with their mental/emotional bonds to their dragons, you've got your ancient true language, knowledge of which allows you to magically control the nature of things. There are prophecies in this book too, but more of the cliched fantasy type that's really intended as a puzzle for the reader. The writing was okay, the characters seem somewhat shallow and occasionally unbelievable, sometimes they seem to have good motives for what they do and sometimes they do it for no good reason whatsoever. There were also several points where various dilemmas arose which to me seemed to have fairly simple solutions which weren't tried. A few times they addressed those simple solutions a little later with reasonable explanations for why they didn't try them, but more often then not it's never covered. (As just one example, given the number of time they're perplexed by archers, why has no one come up with a simple spell to snap bowstrings? Even at a distance the amount of force needed is so small that it seems like it should be worthwhile.) So after making it sound so mediocre why did i go ahead and get the second book? Well, um, now that i've started i've got to see what happens next, right? :) (However in another aside that won't matter to most people, the voice actor for this audiobook is driving me nuts. Normally he's okay but whenever he speaks for a woman, a dragon, or about half the dwarves he sounds really crappy. He's trying _way_ too hard to sound feminine or gravely or whatever the case may be. =P)

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So in short, don't get "From the Dust Returned" unless you're far more interested in fancy language than actual plot. "Oryx and Crake" is good if you like depressing dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels, "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" and "Tales of the Otori" are just plain good, especially if you're interested in history or other cultures, and Eragon is okay if you want to read some slightly better than average shlocky fantasy with dragons and dragon-riders and elves and dwarves and such.
 
 
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