Thursday, December 24, 2015

Review: Throne of the Crescent Moon (The Crescent Moon Kingdoms #1)

Throne of the Crescent Moon (The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, #1)Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a brilliant, if flawed, gem worth reading in spite of its problems. Ahmed does Arabian high fantasy better than any I’ve come across, with the style and panache that envelops readers deep into the warm embrace of the author’s vividly crafted world.

Throne of the Crescent Moon” follows the trials and tribulations of an aging adventurer-scholar, his zealous young dervish protog√©, and a fiercely unrefined bedouin girl as they pursue ghuls and the sorcerous evil creating them. Ahmed deftly weaves political intrigue, class conflict, sexual tension, mystery, and adventure into a wonderous yarn which picks up speed as it unfurls, hurling the reader toward the final conflict between the protagonist and an antagonist who never quite establishes himself. It is perhaps too cruel to call the mysterious villain a cardboard cutout evil doer, but his thin presence does seem better suited to Scooby and the gang than Abdoulla Makhslood, last of the ghul hunters. In fact, it is probably because Abdullah and his friends, foils, and supporting ensemble are so well rounded that the absence of a strong antagonist is so keenly felt. Nevertheless, Saladin Ahmed gets so very many things just right that this is a book worth reading and an author worth watching.

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Review: The Last Witness

The Last WitnessThe Last Witness by K.J. Parker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some ideas are meant for novellas; sadly, there are good ideas which have been thrown on a rack and tortured into novel-length monstrosities—or worse, serial monstrosities. In “The Last Wish”, K. J. Parker weaves a tapestry whose slightly frayed edges suggest that this could have been one such book, had the author not had the wisdom to keep the driving conceit in focus. The book plays with the idea of memory transfer, willing and unwilling, across a spectrum of circumstance, while examining the effects foisted upon victims and participants. Parker gives the notion well and thorough treatment, wasting neither scene nor character in service to the muse. The memory stealing protagonist’s fluid identity gets a bit confusing at times, and some supporting locations and characters would benefit from additional detail, but such transgressions are forgivable when everything else delivers such satisfaction.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some readers have compared this book to Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye", presumably due to a common tendency to digress; yet where I found the former digressions distracting and annoying, the latter are awash with insightful, wry humor. There is no great mystery within, I spotted whodunnit after the first few chapters, but the doggedly determined narrative voice exudes a compelling charm to a degree such that I nearly finished the book in one sitting. Despite some superficial problems—e.g. prime numbered chapters—it's easy to like this book and in the end I'm happy to have met Christopher Boone.

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas

Redshirts: A Novel with Three CodasRedshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It didn't surprise me that I liked this book—it came to my attention through Patrick Rothfuss' high praise and the publisher's blurb piqued my interest. What surprised me was how much I liked it. I breezed through it in a couple days, often laughing but I'll cop to shedding a tear at the end. Given the subject matter, Wil Wheaton may seem like an obvious choice for the narration, but he's bloody brilliant in this—from the hilarious alien gargle-speak in chapter two, through the moving bit in the third coda, and all points between.

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fabulous Weekend

A Thirtieth birthday is often marked as an extra-special occasion, a strange rite of passage where the now ill fitting cloak of latter adolescence is doffed in favor of the thin mantle of adult respectability. My thirtieth birthday arrived in October 2000, and I decided to host a kind of symposium; I invited a handful of my most intellectually gifted friends to come, drink, and make a presentation—plans to take over the world were my suggestion but anything would be accepted so long as it was interesting. Far and away the winning presentation was given by David M. Ewalt. In a stunning example of a non-ohmic resistor, David dimmed the room lights and connected the wires of an electric cord to either end of a pickle, then inserted the plug end into a wall outlet. In the two or three seconds before the fuse blew, that pickle lit up with an eerie glow. All present will ever recall the man we then dubbed The Pickle King.

Last week The Pickle King published his debut novel, Of Dice and Men

Of Dice and Men by David M. Ewalt

Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and The People Who Play ItOf Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and The People Who Play It by David M. Ewalt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pairing his reporter's sensibility with a passionate, nerdy zeal, David M. Ewalt weaves the nappy threads of D&D's history, his own soul-baring journey of geek-enlightenment, and compelling in-game narratives into what must surely be the Bayeux Tapestry of Dungeons & Dragons…

Friday, July 26, 2013

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

ElantrisElantris by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this book, I found the characters likeable but somewhat static, and the dialog has a lot of yelping but is otherwise believable. There are a number of sub-plot stubs left unexplored, perhaps as possible starting points for other tales set in the same world. The main plots move at a comfortable pace and I especially liked the richly detailed glyph magic as presented; though the resolution to the plot-moving magical mystery left me wondering why it had been left unsolved for ten years. I'm encouraged to read more Sanderson, hopefully this is not his best work.

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