Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Hobbit or There and Back AgainThe Hobbit or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fourth time reading? I think so. Or maybe fifth. But any way you look at it, I'm a fanboy of the whole world, the author, and the writing.

From a pure enjoyment view, it's a pure delight. From Bilbo's annoyance with the dwarves to Bilbo's annoyance with the dwarves and all his hobbit relations, I can't get enough.

But what about the obvious correlations with Beowulf?

Meh, this is better. :)

Did I love Gollum, the wargs, Beorn, the spiders, the grey elves, the men of Dale, the jewel under the mountain, or SMAUG? Oh, yes. And the pointy-hat guy, too. :) And the wonderful songs. And the delightful pacing. And countless details that only enrich the history of this realm. :)

Is it better than just about any fantasy out there?

Possibly. There's more depth here than just about anywhere. And that's including massive tomes with dozens of volumes in the more modern varieties. This one is simply rich and well-written. :) And, of course, it has been copied and plumbed for all its depth in so many imitators.

Let's hear it for the king of all YA fantasy!


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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Krondor: The Betrayal (The Riftwar Legacy, #1)Krondor: The Betrayal by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I began this with a little trepidation. I mean, any book that starts referring to its video game companion but still firmly in the author's Riftwar bibliography could kinda go either way. Is this a game advert or is it more its own thing? Either way, the game was a hit in the nineties and may be rather hard to find nowadays. :)

What was I expecting? Well, after the last four-book epic taking place 50 years after the first Riftwar, full of its own troubles, I half-expected something pushing the timeline forward. Not backward. Not back to a young middle-aged Jimmy the Hand and barely gray Pug with Prince Arutha still in his prime.

But, hell, okay! Cool! Side-story time! Big side-story time with all my favorite characters back in their prime and a slew of new, weaker peeps finding their own way.

I am not disappointed. At all. I really loved the progression and the wealth of new-and-old worldbuilding. The drill-down. :) And it really can't go wrong when we dive into so many cool new elements.

Yes, the central story is actually written around the main plot of the game. It's a collaboration with the game-makers. But you know what? I have no problems with it. It is a great story. :)

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Shards of a Broken Crown (The Serpentwar Saga, #4)Shards of a Broken Crown by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

These last two Feist novels have been rather wonderful, a return to the grand epic-style stakes and battles that drew me to the writer in the beginning. The aftermath of the Serpentwar mainly focused on the fate of the survivors from all over the place scrambling to take control of the rubble and while we follow some rather sympathetic characters in this, INCLUDING a ton of Pug, I found a ton action and intrigue to love.

But more importantly, and other than the big battles, I particularly loved the reveals about the gods. And the results of our long-lived characters' choices. This kind of thing is both very satisfying and sets up the rest of the series for some really spectacular blowouts.

Mad gods, sleeping gods, new avatars, new religions... it's all great. But I particularly love how lawless this place has become. And Pug's final decision. And I agree with him. Screw them all. :) Not worth it. :)

It's going to be a wild time in the rebuilding. :)

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Rage of a Demon King (The Serpentwar Saga, #3)Rage of a Demon King by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book really ends with a bang. The first half continues to build the preparations for the big war to come, fulfilling the promise of the first two books in the Serpentwar Saga, but it really goes above and beyond after ALL the great heroes and magicians band together to figure out what the hell is going on.

Gods. Lots of great worldbuilding happens here. :) Gaimanesque, elemental, and very cool.

I admit I've missed seeing so much of Pug and he takes a big role here. Thomas, too. And all the oddball magicians we've grown to love. But the tragedy is real, too. Pug loses the most. He also gains a lot in the end.

What can you expect in this novel aside from the magics?

Oh, just a nasty war and the destruction of Krondor. It has everything you lovers of mayhem might want. The stakes are the death of universes and the defeat a mad god, after all. All hands on deck! Expect a lot of deaths. Expected and unexpected.

Quite good. Quite enjoyable. Enjoyed this more than the last two. :)



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Monday, April 15, 2019

The Legend of GriffThe Legend of Griff by Richard Sparrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Competent and amusing, this fantasy turns the traditional fantasy trope on its head in a very familiar way. You know, get that hero-laden orphan, a magical sword of destiny... and kill him.

It's a thing, now. And at the moment, I'm still amused by the trend and would still like to see more of it... until I don't. :)

This particular book crams just a few days into its delightful pages, adding tons of cool and light-hearted plot that mixes in polite goblin hoards, jackass humans, a truly legendary young man with all the right accolades (with his death), and a hapless young goblin who just happens to take up HIS DESTINY. :)

Who really cares the sword was designed to kill goblins and it blisters his hand? He's got a good heart. :)

Light and fun, humorous in ways that remind me nicely of Pratchett. I'll definitely like to read what happens next. :)

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

State Tectonics (The Centenal Cycle, #3)State Tectonics by Malka Ann Older
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Five stars for what the novel and the previous two is attempting to do. The idea behind the whole Infomocracy one-world government of democracy by self-involved special interests delineated not by geography but by ideas is a great milestone in literature.

Sure, others have done something similar in regular modes or have skirted around the idea in the past, but Older grabs hard onto the topic and runs at full speed with it.

I mean, let's face it, the idea sounds complicated but it really isn't. NRA nuts vote along NRA lines. Pro-Lifers do the same. When we have an idea that we're willing to sacrifice all other ideas upon its altar, we get together all our buds and tell them to sacrifice all the other things they believe in to focus HARD upon that one single idea.

It's insane, but it's what we do. Older's SF is a whole world full of voting blocks and, as in the second novel, Null States who refuse to take part in the grand social schema. But in this third novel, we're focused post-tragedy rebuilding, the mistrust with all the voting blocs, and a serious misgiving for the whole political process that seems oddly familiar...

RIGHT?

So, yeah, Older is really tapping into our current political Zeitgeist and hits us hard where I suppose a lot of us are fairly weak. How do we trust information? Can we trust information? Is there any way to cut through the s*** and get the truth when the truth can be twisted 23 ways before breakfast?

Things can never be simple. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you their snake-oil. And yet, that's where the problem always becomes worse. We need to be informed, so we decide to trust loved ones or personalities we think we can trust or any other illogical mode JUST BECAUSE we're so unsure. And then we roll with it for good or ill because that's what we've always done.

Older tells this story in her own way and couched a very thoroughly thought-out near-future world and I really appreciate the attempt. Truly. Much respect.


However, the actual story and plot in this one? Sigh. Not all that interesting. It had its moments and the very thing I loved most about the novel, the intricate political and information-terminology complexity, was also the most difficult thing to enjoy. The exposition dragged the tale even though the exposition was exactly what made this book (or these books) so great.

It should definitely be read and enjoyed, but a certain amount of managed expectations should be involved in the process. :)

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Saturday, April 13, 2019

BaudolinoBaudolino by Umberto Eco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aside from a few parts that I got a little bored with, this novel was, by and large, a tour de force of humorous historical storytelling proportions. I was delighted and totally amused by Baudolino, the inveterate trickster, storyteller, and liar.

Putting aside actual history for a moment and the MC's way of explaining that he is, as always, a liar, but he only lies for good, the novel grows epic from the first passages. We start with the fall of Constantinople, getting in tight with Barbarossa (the Holy Roman Emperor), and move into an amazing and amusing set of circumstances that include the founding of Alexandria, going on several quests for Prester John, meeting all manners of strange creatures and lands right out of the weirdest Medieval descriptions, and so much more.

This is Umberto Eco, after all. If we're not knee-or-thigh-deep in fascinating historical footnotes couched in an expansive idea-rich adventure, then we must have wandered into someone else's novel.

I laughed-out-loud many times. I especially loved the whole con game about selling relics. In this case, the seven severed heads of John the Baptist. :) The kinds of lies that Baudolino and his cohorts told were fantastic, rich, and while they didn't always pan out the way they hoped, the effects were gorgeous to behold.

Is this a farce? A satire? A wonderful sarcastic and worldly tribute to imagination and The Pilgrim's Progress? (And better, too?) Hell, you know this is crazy when you have our hero carry around the Holy Grail.

But what is real and what is pure fabrication? Possibly everything, but even Baudolino warns us that he tells us lies to get to the very truth of things. And that's the best part of the novel.

I got lost in the stories and didn't care a fig about anything but the telling.

My only complaint was with the whole sequence around Hypatia. I kinda didn't care for the philosophical ramblings so much. I just wanted him to move on with the rest of the adventure. But aside from this, I loved everything. :)

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