Wednesday, September 25, 2013

rebel prince

The Rebel Prince is the third in The Moorehawke Trilogy by Celine Kiernan, which brings this trilogy to a compact and quiet conclusion. In doing my internet poking-about in preparation for this, I was interested to see that Kiernan is working on a web comic version of the story and is quite a talented artist. The fact that she has to pare the story down so that it fits into the comic format is telling in my mind when considering how she was able to truncate what could have been a very prolonged finale to the trilogy. Once an author has that many balls in the air, and can be tricky to extricate one's self from a story without feeling like you need to satisfy every little urge and need. christopher paolini, i'm looking at you. I was glad to see that Kiernan was able to let a couple of those balls drop in the interest of brevity.

 I can't say that this was my favorite fantasy story but it was fun to read, and its clearly written for the YA set, and will appeal to those who enjoy a fun fantasy story with a fair amount of action and a touch of romance. Some of this sub-plots, like the ghosts and the talking cats seemed a little tacked on in the end, by which I mean that the story would have been the same with or without them. It left me feeling like there was more to it that I just didn't hear about. While I'm grousing, I will also say that the main character was kept in the dark about a lot of things, for a long time, and I had to suffer along with her. Once I found out, I wasn't sure the secrets that were being kept from her really warranted so much cloak and dagger. This ended up accentuating this young woman's feelings of being left out of matters that were perhaps above her station--certainly things being discussed by men in most cases--and it may have been the author's intent to point this out.

Now on to some classic smut: Sons & Lovers by D. H. Lawrence for Banned Books Week!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

crowded shadows

The Crowded Shadows is the perfect middle book;* its got all of the things you'd expect from a middle book, and not many of the things you wouldn't. It probably wouldn't stand on its own, it helps to flesh out the characters and build tension leading up to the finale, the stakes get higher, and some of the mysteries of the the first book get resolved.

Sort of. And not all of them.

Celine Kiernan does write a pretty good story. The characters are solid and feel like people, and only occasionally does someone say or do something that seems slightly out of character. Seems hard to keep track of that as a writer, but there you are.

In this series you've got your swashbuckling, your horse riding, your royal court intrigue, mystery as I've said, and speckled throughout, you've got your religion and religious fanaticism, you've got your love, your hate, and your love-hate relationships, your mysticism, occult,  and a few talking animals.

A little something for everyone.

On to the last book!

* I've called these bridge books in the past.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

farthest shore

The Farthest Shore in the third book in Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea series. This book also focuses on the wizard/mage Sparrowhawk but like the second, it isn't exclusively about him. Le Guin has created a world with a wide array off possibilities; the stories she could set in this universe are unlimited, and she actually speaks about that at length in the afterword. Le Guin describes how she drew up the map of Earthsea, and named all of the places that she knew about from her story, and then went about naming all of the rest of the places, wondering all the while what those far away places were like, what kind of people lived there, and how they would interact with the characters and peoples she already knew about. She speaks about wanting to travel to these places through story to find what was there, say that this is how she wrote The Farthest Shore--by letting the story take its own course without knowing what would happen next, and especially not knowing the ending.

Of the three, I think I like this one best. The character of Sparrowhawk has grown, and has a certainly solidity to him that may have been a little thin in the other two, even the first where he is introduced. This volume also has a epic sweep to it that was also absent in the others, there is an Odyssey-like aspect to it which is nice.

And the dragons. The dragons are fleshed out in some detail in this story unlike they were in the mysterious first book. Le Guin talks about how she borrowed from others in her development of the dragons, and I haven't read all of the authors she nods to in the afterword, but they do seem to have an aspect to them the rings as original to my ear.

There are some grand developments in the Earthsea universe in this story, and I'm curious to see how these developments impact the next stories in the series.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

snow crash

I got the heads-up on Snow Crash after visiting Christopher Moore's web site. I went looking for Moore's web site after reading his Sacré Bleu. I wanted to send him an email telling him how much I liked it--that is the first and only time I've contacted an author after reading a book--and Moore was kind enough to write back. Moore has Snow Crash listed on his "Chris's Picks 1" page, along with a little blurb about it. I read that and decided I had to read Snow Crash; I've read a few of Neal Stephenson's books, and they were good so what more did I need?

Stephenson seems like a deep thinker to me. He really puts the time into both research and thinking through how his characters react to the world around them. This grounds his plots in reality and gives them weight, which is especially important in SF, where suspension of disbelieve is so critical. I've said this about Neal Stephenson before: he can really work a complex storyline into a manageable read that doesn't get bogged down and really pushes the story along. But the ideas are BIG!

Snow Crash has a definite cyberpunk twang to it, but all of the action doesn't take place in cyberspace, or the Metaverse, as Stephenson calls it. The action happens in the real world and is supplemented by action in the Metaverse. The main protagonist is a katana toting hacker who helped to write the code for the Metaverse, and his sidekick ends up being a skateboard riding courier who takes her chances flying through traffic grappled to moving vehicles.

What's it about? Computer viruses, biological viruses, dissolution of American society, franchise economy, the birth of a super-library, the birth of organized religion, the birth of human language, nuclear testing on aboriginal peoples, the pizza-delivering mafia, and, you know, how all of those things tie together.

Sound crazy? Yes. It is one of my favorite recent reads.

Read this book. Push someone out of the way if you have to.

Monday, September 2, 2013


The fourth and last book in the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini is Inheritance. If I remember correctly, this series started when Paolini was able to publish the first volume when he was 15 or 16 years old. I read the first three installments before I began this blog, so its been a while.

Eragon is the first book, titled after the main character; the series focuses on him throughout. Eragon is young man who starts out living with his uncle, and undergoes a series of life-changing events that eventually puts him in the center of his world in not much of a span of time. Watching the young man grow from a farm boy to a leader, and all the struggles that come with that, is the personal story driver that winds throughout the series, but the external action is keeps the story fun. Eragon and friends certainly get into their share of scrapes.

If the series has any draw backs I would say that the first book suffers a little bit from the youth of Paolini as a writer. Paolini has two parents in the book business which helped him get going by self-publishing Eragon themselves. The book came to the attention of Knopf who contacted Paolini and made arrangements to publish the second edition of Eragon, and the rest of the series. I think Knopf editors helped with the book when they got hold of it, but I could feel the writing growing up with the writer as I read through the series. The writing in this last volume was pretty good.

Second, this series was a little long. I know when folks read The Lord of the Rings, they wish it wouldn't end, and Tolkien commented himself that people had complained to him that it was too short. After all, an epic story deserves an epic length, but we readers were expecting this to be a trilogy, and when the third book came out and it was bigger than either of the first two AND included an author's note saying that he tried, but was unable to get it all wrapped up in three volumes, I was a little surprised to find the fourth volume even larger, by more than 100 pages.

Eragon 528 pages
Eldest 704 pages
Brisingr 763 pages
Inheritance 880 pages
Inheritance Cycle Total 2,875 pages dang, son, that's a lot of paper

The conclusion was satisfying, and I was glad to see that Paolini didn't give in to all of his adolescent fantasies in the final story. That being said, there may be more to come. There are some story legs left in the universe Paolini has built, and I would bet we'll see more stories of dragons, magic, and elves from him in the future.

I have a pile of fantasy stories lined up next.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

travel marker series iii

This is a trade bookmark, designed to be the wrapping for a fun kid's bracelet called the b.FUNNY. These rubbery bracelets come in a variety of colors and designs, with hearts being the main design element. Wear one, or wear ten, depending on how you feel. The bracelets are one-piece, with a knob on one end that pops into a hole at the other end to hold them in place. When a bracelet is picked out, its slipped through the 'smile' cutout in the bookmarker, and the knob is popped thru the 'nose' from the back. The bracelet then hangs down the front of the bookmarker card as a presentation when sold.

This bookmark was given to me by the owner of the store in Sulmona, Italy who happens to be engaged to my wife's cousin. Silvia's store is FULL of all kinds of fun stuff for kids and adults, and if the store has a theme, it would have to be: adorable. Silvia's store is listed on the bracelet manufacturer's website as an authorized dealer.


At Il Capriccio di Silvia (Silvia's Whims?) you can buy a Superman lunch box, a Hello Kitty bikini, a Mini Mouse school bag, a tea set with puppies, pocketbooks, purses, T-shirts, posters... she has everything, and if its not in the store she has it on her website.

The reverse of the card says: "Your Birikino Bookmarker!! Bring it with You!!" So I did.

Grazie mille Silvia!