It’s hard to put into words just how much I loved this novel. Neil Gaiman has an exceptional talent for writing what I like to think of as fairy tales for adults. He writes these stories that are so deeply imaginative and yet are so real, they just resonate with me like few other stories.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane was a simple, yet incredibly moving story. It was simply elegant storytelling. It took me back to my childhood and made me appreciate it in ways I never have before. It also made me insanely jealous of people that got to grow up in big, old houses on quite country lanes.
I listened to the audio of this novel and I have to believe that was the best way to experience it. Neil Gaiman is not only an amazing writer, but he really is a great narrator as well. I had hear him narrate The Graveyard Books so I knew what to expect, but I was still incredibly pleased with the result.
Honestly, this novel was just excellent. I would recommend it to anyone, not just science fiction or fantasy fans. Brilliant.
Let me start by saying that Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. I've been working my way through his catalog ever since I read American Gods a couple of years ago.
Although Stardust will not go down as my favorite of Gaiman's works--that honor still probably goes to American Gods--I still enjoyed it thoroughly. Neil Gaiman has a way of telling stories that really appeals to me. He has a way of capturing magic and making it seem like the most natural thing.
He can also take well-used themes and retell them in unique and delightful ways. And that's what Gaiman did with Stardust. Stardust is a fairytale complete with unlikely heroes, damsels in distress, and wicked witches, and, despite all that, it's still a very charming story.
The more I read by Brandon Sanderson, the more I respect him as an author. In fact, at this moment in time, I think he is probably the best fantasy author in the business. His work is consistently of high quality, his characters are realistic, his world building is outstanding, and his magic systems are unique, imaginative, and very well considered. On top of that, Sanderson is fast writer, meaning that he publishes multiple novels a year.
With all that said, I really enjoyed The Rithmatist. It is technically a young adult novel, but I hardly noticed. The only real differences between it and Sanderson's adult fiction is that it's shorter in length, the protagonist is 15 years old, and there's no romance. None of that bothered me in the slightest.
It's hard for me to pick my favorite thing about the novel, because I really liked it as a whole. However, the magic system was absolutely fantastic. In The Rithmatist, magical energies can be used for attack or defense by drawing shapes with chalk. I thought that was a really cool idea, but I also really liked how Sanderson took it another step and developed a dueling system complete with rules and strategies.
Beyond that, I thought that Joel was a really good protagonist. Sure, he fits the typical "unlikely hero" motif almost exactly, but it's a classic trope that never gets old if done well. Joel is full of youthful exuberance and is easy to relate to. I liked how it was his intelligence that was his true asset and not magic.
The world that Sanderson created was really interesting as well. The story is set in a alternate United States somewhere around the beginning of the 20th century. I don't recall if an exact year was given. It seemed like the story was going to fall into the Steampunk genre, but instead the world relies on magnets and magic for technological innovation. I really liked that, because, to be honest, Steampunk just isn't my favorite.
Overall, the story was not overly complicated, but had enough mystery and suspense to move the plot along at a brisk pace and keep things interesting. I liked this so much, I would recommend it to anyone even vaguely interested in speculative fiction.
Writing this review is going to be a challenge. I mean, how do I write a piece of commentary that adequately relates all of my thoughts and feelings about Anathem, Neal Stephenson's masterwork of epic science fiction storytelling? I'm not sure yet, but I'm going to give it a shot.
First off, you may notice that I only gave the novel 4 stars. That's simply because I base my star rating on how much I enjoy a novel, not necessarily on its quality or literary value. Although I recognize Anathem for what it is, a brilliant piece of literature, independent of genre, I must admit that there are simply other novels that I have enjoyed more thoroughly, including Stephenson's own cyberpunk classic, Snowcrash.
With that said, let me start by saying that there were many elements of this novel that I did thoroughly enjoyed. To start with, I really liked the characters. Erasmus was an excellent protagonist that I could easily relate to and he was complimented with excellent secondary characters.
I also loved the world that Stephenson created. I don't think I've ever encountered such rich and detailed world building in a science fiction novel before. The universe was incredibly interesting and shockingly familiar, and that familiarity made the story all the more intriguing. I couldn't wait for more secrets of the universe (or should I say multiverse?) to be revealed. It was fascinating to learn how all of the worlds and races were interconnected.
In addition to the broader universe, the localized monastery was so intricately imagined, I was nearly dumbfounded. Needless to say, at some point, I stopped trying to figure out how the damn thing was laid out. It was far too complex for me to wrap my head around without a blueprint of some sort.
That is actually probably one of my few complaints. Although I loved the extreme detail of the architecture, I just couldn't follow it all. I don't know if that's the fault of the author or my own lack of imagination, but it was a little frustrating at times when I would realize that I just had no idea how Saunt Edhar looked. I even tried a Google search and was shocked that I couldn't find an image! I guess I wasn't the only one who was perplexed.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the only time I was confused. I don't believe that I'm unintelligent, but my math education ended with pre-Calculus and, while I grasped most of the mathematical principles from the novel, it was sometimes a bit much to follow, especially considering that I listened to the audiobook, usually while driving.
I've listened quite a few audiobooks now and I've found that some novels translate really well--the drama and pace being perfect for an oral performance--and some don't work as well. Although I thought the novel was narrated very well, it was just a bit complex for an audio only experience. There were passages that I would have liked to reread and points when I would have like to pause and consider something. That is possible with an audiobook of course, but not nearly as convenient. It's also quite hard to go back and refer to something from a previous chapter.
I think the biggest issue with listening to the novel, rather than reading, it was missing out on seeing the unique spelling of the novel's vocabulary. I knew that there were spelling differences based on the narrators pronunciation, but I really wished that I could also see how the words were spelled. It felt like I was missing an important part of the novel.
Overall, the plot was excellent and well executed. There was plenty of drama, mystery, and suspense, despite the fact that there was little actual violence.
I would heartily recommend Anathem to any science fiction reader. It really was an excellent novel and I'm sure it will be long regarded as a classic.
I picked this up when I had some cash on my account that was about to expire. It caught my attention, because it was one of the Neil Gaiman Presents selections. I really like Gaiman’s work and I figured I would probably also like a book that he recommends. I was right.
Dimension of Miracles was amusing, witty, and well-written. In many ways, it was like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, only it came first. It begins when Tom Carmody is whisked away from his New York apartment upon accidentally winning the galactic lottery. In his exploits thereafter, he meets a number of strange characters on several interesting worlds as he attempts to return to Earth.
My favorite part was probably when Tom was transported to Earth during the dinosaur age and proceeds to have a very charming conversation with a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
John Hodgman was an excellent choice to narrate this novel. I thought his tone perfectly embodied the author’s dry wit.
Overall, the novel was quite enjoyable. The story was light and amusing, but still had some deeper points as well. It won’t go down as my all-time favorite, but it was still a fun read that I would recommend to anyone looking for a comedic sci-fi story.
I read Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. I’ve been meaning to read some more of his work since then and I finally decided to pick up Red Country because it was getting a lot of praise.
I liked it quite well, but I don’t think I liked it as well as the First Law trilogy. It was really very good in many ways, but I didn’t think the story was quite as interesting. It certainly wasn’t bad, but it felt a little aimless at times.
The characters were solid. I liked Shy, Temple, and Dab Sweet all well enough. They were fairly diverse and interesting. Lamb was my favorite of course. I don’t want to give anything away, but those who have read the First Law trilogy will be thrilled by Lamb I’m sure.
I wasn’t that excited about Cosca though. He was also in the First Law trilogy, but to a lesser extent. He was just such a repulsive character, I really got tired of him by the end.
Perhaps the best part of the novel was the setting. It definitely had a “wild west” feel to it even though it was set within the same world as the First Law trilogy. I thought that was pretty cool.
Regardless of all of the connections to the First Law trilogy, this novel is a standalone and I don’t think you would need to read the trilogy first. If you have, then there will be a number of connections that you’ll get, but if you haven’t, I don’t think it would really matter.
Overall, I liked Red Country. It was an interesting and entertaining read. It was definitely a bit different than other fantasy novels that I’ve read, largely due to the setting, and that was kind of refreshing. Recommended.
I decided to pick up Warbreaker, because I had read several of Brandon Sanderson’s other works including the Mistborn trilogy, Legion, and The Emperor’s Soul, and I really enjoyed them all. In each of those works, I was incredibly impressed with Sanderson’s world building and magic systems.
I found the same was true in Warbreaker. The magic system was probably the novel’s greatest virtue. It was complex, strange, and fascinating. Basically, every person is born with a breath, but can accumulate more to do interesting magic, such as animating a rope, clothing, or a corpse to do one’s bidding. There’s a lot more to it that than and learning about the intricacies of the system was perhaps my favorite part of the book. It’s clear that Sanderson has quite a talent for developing unique magic systems.
The world was also pretty interesting, though not terribly complex. I liked how history played a role in the story. I actually would have liked Sanderson to tie in the history a little more. It ends up being fairly important, but Sanderson never truly gives a good history lesson. Instead, he chose to deliver it in bits and pieces so, even at the end of the novel, it wasn’t completely clear how everything fit together.
I also thought it was interesting how gods played an integral role in society and were even part of the government. The only thing I didn’t like was that it was a little difficult to figure out how the magic of the gods worked. Sanderson never really laid it all out and sometimes I would wonder how a god was able to do something or why they couldn’t.
And that leads me into my biggest issue with the novel. I did not care for the storytelling. I’ve enjoyed Sanderson’s writing in all of my previous experiences, but I felt like he simply was not at his best in Warbreaker. The story was not terribly complex and yet it felt like many details were left out until the very end and then just explained in a rush.
The other complaint that I had was regarding the characters. They just seemed kind of flat to me, kind of two dimensional. The motives of characters like Denth and Vasher were not well explored and many of the others lacked the substance necessary for me to really connect with them. I actually think this novel should have followed Vasher. He was by far the most interesting character in my mind and he just didn’t get enough attention. His story was just screaming to be told.
I also listened to this on audiobook and, frankly, I did not particularly care for the narrator. I don’t know that I would say that he was bad, but I didn’t think his style was a great fit for the novel. My only real complaint was the voice he used for Lightsong. I’m not sure how Lightsong was meant to sound, but I have it feeling that “surfer dude” was not it. I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed the novel more if I had actually read Warbreaker myself, but I can say for sure that the narration did not heighten my experience, as it has with other novels.
Overall, I thought Warbreaker was pretty good. It’s not Sanderson’s finest, but it still has some upsides. If Sanderson writes a sequel, there’s a chance I would read it.
I'm having a hard time rating this book. On one hand, it was very good in many respects and yet I don't think it was as good as some of the earlier books in the series.
The things that I liked about the novel are all the same things that I liked about all of the previous novels. Martin is a master at telling human stories. Some of the characters you come to love and some you despise, but they are all almost impossibly realistic.
Another thing that I like is that characters don't have good things happen to them just because they are good and vice versa. Sometimes good things happen to bad people and sometimes bad things happen to good people. Tat makes it almost impossible to predict what will happen.
Unfortunately, there were some problems with A Dance With Dragons. One thing that this novel had against it from the start was the hole that Martin dug in book 4. He only told the stories of about half of the characters so the first half of A Dance With Dragons was set during A Feast of Crows. That made the timing of events in book 5 pretty difficult to connect with book 4. It also pretty much insured that nothing important would happen in the first half, because otherwise it would have become known to the characters covered in book 4. In fact, nothing really big could have happened or it would have broken the continuity of the story.
One thing that I'm torn about is that, looking back at this novel, the longest of series known for its immensity, I realize that somehow not that much actually happened, and yet I still loved it and was even a bit disappointed when I got to the end.
Perhaps the greatest evidence is Daenerys' arc. I feel like Martin is a bit stuck there. Obviously, the story is driving toward Danny conquering/uniting Westeros, but she acquired power so quickly that now it seems like Martin is just padding out her story, because he still has two more books to write.
The upside is that Martin's writing is so good that it hardly seems to matter if the plot is meandering. The characters are so compelling that it barely matters if the are waging war or tending the garden. Despite the flaws, the book is still good enough to earn 5 stars from me. I'm really looking forward to the next novel, whenever it gets published.
Before I get into the story, let me first address the narration of this book by Roy Dotrice. If you only listen to this book, then I expect that you’ll feel that Mr. Dotrice does a wonderful job. Unfortunately, if you listen to the books subsequently, you may not agree.
The main problem is that Dotrice changed the voices of several characters. He also changed the pronunciation of several characters’ names. At first, it was jarring, but after a few hours, I had forgotten all about it.
Now onto the writing. As usual, George R.R. Martin proves that he is excellent at writing morally grey characters and intricately twisted plots. He’s very good at bringing characters to life and making you care about them, whether you love them or hate them.
However, the main reason that I can’t give his book 5 stars is because, despite it’s length, Martin ignored several characters that are critical to the series’ overarching plot, including Daenerys, Stannis, Jon Snow, Bran, and Tyrion.
That to me is a big deal, because as a result the plot didn’t really move forward all that much. Yes, some minor events occurred and a number of sub plots were introduced, but the main plot was not addressed at all.
Still, this was a very good novel in its own right. There wasn’t a lot of action to speak of, but there was still a lot of excellent drama and character development. Plus, the characters that it did focus on are some of my favorites.
If you liked the first three books, you’ll definitely still like this one, but I’m hoping for a little more in the fifth. I think we all know roughly how the series has to end; I just hope Martin doesn’t drag it out too much.
To be honest, Blood Rites is not my favorite of the Dresden Files, but, given that, it's still very good and still worthy of 5 stars. I guess I just enjoy this series that much.
Considering the awesomeness of books 3-5, it was going to take a hell of a lot for Butcher to top himself again. Truthfully, Butcher gave it a good shot. As usual, there's a twisty plot, well-written action scenes, and black humor. On top of that Blood Rites was chocked full of solid character development, and not just for Harry; there are a lot of really powerful scenes involving Thomas.
I really like that Butcher's characters are not flawless and they are forced to live with the consequences of their decisions. They are also not invincible (although some are pretty close). Okay, Butcher isn't going to kill off his protagonist, but Harry never gets through a novel unscathed.
My only real complaint about Blood Rites is that part of the central plot surrounds an adult film. It did lead to some humorous moments on occasion, but it just didn't work that well for me. The characters were kind of dull and it just didn't compare to some of the other parts of the plot.
Blood Rites is the second book in the series to be produced by Penguin Audio, which means that the narration and production quality are outstanding. James Marsters makes an excellent Harry Dresden and he has done a superb job since Penguin took over.
Without question, if you enjoyed the first five books, you'll love Blood Rites as well.
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