After reading this book I can't tell you anything more about the Thirty Year's War than I already knew; the author failed at storytelling. I've read tough histories (e.g., Thucydides) before, but this book abandons all pretense at chronology. The chapters themselves are coherent, and many are well written. However, the book reads as if the various chapters were scattered to wind and then those that were recovered were stitched together in approximately the right order with great stretches of the narrative gone. More than once I reacted to the disclosure of a date like "What?! its 1640? I though we were still talking about 1626!"
I had hoped that in ten years the author would have learned to write a less disjointed plot. He has not. I still found myself forgetting who the characters were and where they fit into the plot. This book, like all of this author's books, demands attention, and getting distracted for a few minutes leaves you lost in a land of square pegs and round holes. Obfuscation is not art.
However, the joy of this book is also its weakness. The command of the English language displayed in this book is stunning. It merits the comparison to Jack Vance's Dying Earth; the very complexity of the language creates a sense of other-worldliness that, combined with imagery, creates a captivating world and a captivating story. Like Vance (or like Shakespeare for that matter), this book is a high-effort, high reward read.
This is one of the great works of science fiction. It is imaginative and adventurous without the comic-book quality of so much other Soviet-era science fiction; It is also thoughtful and philosophical without being dull. The performance is great in that the narrator fades into the background of the story. Highly recommended.
I understand that this is a children's book, but the narrator reads it as if he's playing peek-a-boo with an infant. I shut the book off after a few minutes because I couldn't stand it. Do yourself a favor and listen to the sample before buying.
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