Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Golden HouseThe Golden House by Salman Rushdie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this ARC!

I've always had Rushdie in my rear-view mirror it seems. He keeps cropping up everywhere and I always meant to read Satanic Verses for the big hubbub it made back in the day. You know, the whole assassination thing. And yet, I never actually got a round to reading him.

And then, out of the blue, I see a chance. Netgalley. I jumped on it and was pleasantly surprised to get it. And then I read my very first Rushdie.

Expectations are a tricky thing. I rather thought I was going to get a heavy literary novel full of references and mythology bubbling beneath the circus, if not surface, of the text. What I got was exactly that, but more-so, because I was engrossed in something so very readable and enjoyable that I never once had to really WORK at it. You know?

All the references myth were telegraphed as loudly as a classic Russian novel, the basic themes as loud as Bollywood musical, the pathos and the tragedy as distinctly American as a Mafia film.

Indeed, my own references were carefully considered and a careful reader will know what to expect if they pick this novel up. :)

It was pretty awesome, all told. The search and the apparent finding and confusion of identity is a very major theme, whether told as the story of Nero Golden, the patriarch, or through any of his sons who are as bright as those in Brothers Karamazov, or through the identity of our unreliable narrator, the house-guest and future filmmaker of the House of Golden.

But let me be honest here... I'd have read and enjoyed this novel just for the sequences about the rise of the Joker in politics. :) That stuff was GOLDEN.

And indeed, all of this was clever and fascinating and the looming tragedy of the family always kept me glued to the page as if I was rubbernecking a particularly bad auto accident. And it was beautiful. I don't know what that says about me, but I certainly love a good tragedy. It was lurid and fantastical and gaudy as if we were reading about Gatsby which, indeed, there was made multiple references.

Above all, this is a very modern book full of modern post-truth America and the lies that we see with our right eyes and the distorted truths of our left. I can honestly recommend this as a great and fun read. All those accolades that Rushdie seems to be getting are well deserved. He's one hell of a writer.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The AdjacentThe Adjacent by Christopher Priest
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been reading a lot of Christopher Priest lately and I think there must be some kind of critical mass build-up because I just exploded.

The good kind of explosion. Like, my mind just popped.

This one's a love story. Odd as that may seem, looking like a death and a mystery at the beginning.

At first, I wasn't quite sure what to think. These last few books have all been dealing with the Dream Archipelago, an alternate reality close to ours in so many ways but all the names and locations are different and there are odd tech and weird creatures and fantastically detailed lives revolving around death, unending war, isolated peace, and, oddly enough, dying magicians, artists, writers, and similar.

I expected this to be similar but instead, we deal with the future London with a war to end all wars with truly weird weaponized dimensional tech and a mystery drawn out of Priest's signature depth of imagining for his characters. Melanie's body was never found. :) A charred perfect triangle had scored her right out of the ground.

He's at a loss, and that's just the beginning of the novel, just him trying to pick up the pieces, having this strange war-sagaved London get slowly revealed to him, with new mysteries abounding, where we are the ones doing all the heavy lifting. Poor Tibor is a bit distraught, but he gets there.

This is just the beginning, however, because we get extended scenes from WWI and WWII as well, with characters going through many of the similar kinds of emotional upheavals as Tibor, but with very specific and wonderfully detailed differences that are the Very key to unraveling this whole novel's mystery.

And then, when certain events come around, (no spoilers here) to tie this novel way more than firmly to Priest's The Prestige on both superficial and fundamental ways, only to slam us head-first into the last 3/4 of the novel taking place in the Dream Archipelago... well... by this point I'm snapping at people to leave me alone. I have to finish this because my mind is whirling and whirling and it is so utterly delighted and flabbergasted.

This book actually gives us the best hints as to the nature of the Dream Archipelago and the oddest bits of The Prestige and The Affirmation and it even ties itself to The Inverted World in a truly awesome way. I feel like I'm getting all those totally huge reveals only hinted at and hinted at and hinted at for so many novels. I feel like I'm getting something REALLY BIG HERE, folks.

Priest's writing is always paced rather slow but it's always deeply characterized. The world-building is absolutely phenomenal. The fact that he can string us along, leaving us almost always completely in the dark for what seems forever, is a testament to ungodly skill as a writer.

And perhaps it's just the fact that this has been building to one hell of a screaming crescendo for me for quite some time. I'm truly floored.

I won't say this is a particularly easy read and it requires a lot of extra thought on the side to piece everything together, but for all you folks that love beautiful challenges, but not challenges in writing or getting involved in the text, I totally recommend this. :)


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Monday, August 14, 2017

Mort (Death, #1; Discworld, #4)Mort by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Being one of the first and the latest of all the Pratchett reads, I'm really surprised just how much I loved this one. I'm upping the star count to a full five just because I think I liked Mort, the character, even better this time around.

DEATH on DISCWORLD. :) Seriously, there's nothing quite like it. Him. The personification. :) He meddles so much with humanity, tries to get drunk, and hires an apprentice. Not all in that order.

Death is the mewling cat at the party of life. :)

The story is a bit more interesting, I must say, than the ones immediately preceding it, and of all the books, I think it captures the essential spirit of all the ones to come after. High praise, no? I hope so. :)

Very funny stuff. :)

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Tehanu (Earthsea Cycle, #4)Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think this was an interesting installment for the Earthsea books not because it continued the grand tradition of huge fantasy implications and events, but because it flips our expectations and gives us a very domestic view of Earthsea.

That's not to say that evil things don't happen, because they do, but the scope is pulled all the way back in, with Tenar from book 2 and Ged meeting up again after almost a lifetime, with her as a middle-aged woman and Ged much changed after the events of book 3, having lost his magic.

Reader expectations can be a huge complication to any tale that wants to be told. If I hadn't gone into this with my eyes wide open, I might have been rather upset. As it is, I judged this book in my mind against a vast collection of fantasy novels rather than the highest expectations of LeGuin's other novels and I didn't find it wanting. In fact, I quite enjoyed the deeper exploration of what it means to be a woman in Earthsea, with the different kinds of magic, the complications, and the down-to-earth feel. If Ged is the wind, then the female side is the earth. No surprise, I'm sure, but it was quite well done.

As for the plot, it didn't drag for me. I've read much, much worse. :) The setup at the end was quite interesting, too.

Final estimation? It's not on the same level as the other three, but it does explore the world of Earthsea in a rather interesting way that includes two of my favorite characters from the previous books. Sparrowhawk isn't mighty and righteous or just trying to fix his mistakes. He's just a man. That's okay. :)

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Heart's BloodHeart's Blood by Juliet Marillier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is definitely my favorite of Juliet Marillier's books, but to be fair, it's only my second.

That being said, it wasn't a love at first sight, much like the main character in this Beauty and the Beast retelling. It grew on me, much as the Beast grew on Belle.

The later half was quite exciting and full of magic and trying to break the curse and there was plenty of ghosts and ghouls and armies and all the awesome Norman invasion historical stuff to keep me involved in the medieval world this draws from. All the characters became something special for me, too, thanks to the weight of their interactions and involvement with each other.

Unfortunately, it took a while for me to get there. I was kinda bored by the pacing of at least the first half and while it was really focused on the realism angle and strove hard to stick to reality in the retelling, I was only very mildly interested. It was halfway between a historical and a slice-of-life with mild hidden past. It took a while to build up to something cool.

Even so, it ended nicely and it was still charming.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

What the Hell Did I Just Read: A Novel of Cosmic Horror (John Dies at the End, #3)What the Hell Did I Just Read: A Novel of Cosmic Horror by David Wong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I always go ga-ga over these books, and for a really great reason. They're FUN AS HELL.

It bends all genres, has some of the absolutely most delicious wry comments and commentary on our modern f***ed-up life, and is consistently over-the-top when it comes to action, monster mashing, and total reality crushing.

Did I mention that this is to UF as Evil Dead is to Horror? It's not a bad comparison. But then, it's sure as hell not complete, either, because this stuff is in it's own league.

Think slacker/slasher fic that does the funniest Supernatural episodes but adds a bit of crack to it to make it even more addictive, then throw in a major course of Cthulhu, sexual innuendo, and Cracked Magazine, and then you're getting pretty close.

It's the same for all three of these books, and I'm proud to say that this third one is still very strong, indeed. No spoilers, but as it says in the series, John Dies at the End.

For those of you who don't know the books, he really does die, but it doesn't always stick thanks to the Soy Sauce. The time travel and alternate dimension hopping and a barrel of snakes that is potential girlfriends just makes things a bit complicated. You know, normal stuff.

All in a day's *unpaid* work.

Of course, that's not to say everyone has supernatural girlfriends, and Dave's Amy is a real trooper and a badass whom I really love. :)

Honestly, this is some of the most righteous laugh-out-loud OTT technocolor raunchy cool books out there. :) It's a self-conscious B-Movie that transcends into ultimate badassery. :) I am STILL totally recommending this series. :) :)

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Beneath the Dark Ice (Alex Hunter, #1)Beneath the Dark Ice by Greig Beck
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Technothriller gun-porn for people who like ancient monsters.

Does it sound like it's up your alley? Then good, this one's pretty decent at what it does. Plenty of action, some political commentary, but what it really has a lot of is super-competence and/or super-powers for its main character.

Alex is a freak of nature thanks to that bullet in his brain. Woo!

Now let's keep him in charge of his team of crack commandos and watch as the scientists they're protecting die in horrible ways deep in the ice. Woo!

Like I said, if this is your cup of tea, it's pretty decent.

If you like more ideas in your SF or you want more magic in your gun-fantasy or if you want sheer terror in your horror, you might want to look a little further afield. This book covers a lot of rather a lot of familiar territory. Even the main characters fit the mold perfectly. There's not a lot of surprises to behold. At all.

But it's Gun-Porn! Woo! It's all about setting the right expectations. :)

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