It's such a fantastic surprise when a book exceeds your every expectation. I didn't just like this book -- I loved it!
First reason: the character of Bobby Dollar, who is a modern take on the classic hard-boiled, pulp-fiction private eye. This guy can go wise-crack for wise-crack with Sam Spade or stand toe-to-toe with Mike Hammer.
Second reason: the imaginative setting. I can't think of any other neo-noir setting that is quite so much fun as this one. The uneasy truce between heaven and hell is the perfect background for a private-eye procedural where all-is-definitely-not-what-it-seems.
Third reason: the performance. George Newbern makes Bobby's wisecracks come alive. His pitch-perfect delivery of the "Prince Sat-on-a-panda" wisecrack had me in stitches.
I've been a fan of Tad Williams's since Tailchaser's Song and I'm very happy to see him return to stand-alone novels. I eagerly await the next installment in the Bobby Dollar series.
I'm a Tad Williams fan so I came into this series expecting to really like it but I found myself struggling to finish off the series. It's interesting to note that the idea for the Shadowmarch series started off as a pitch for a television series. In television, more than just about any other medium, the characters really matter. That's why a series like "Mad Men" -- which on the surface sounds boring as hell -- I mean who cares about the goings on at an ad agency, that sounds too much like plain old daily life, right? But that show is captivating because of the strength of its characters.
Well, Southmarch has the opposite problem -- it has a fascinating premise and an interesting setting -- but it's filled with characters that are just very hard to care about. The two main characters just never stop whining. They aren't proactive in their situations, and worst of all, they lag far, far behind the reader in figuring out important plot elements. That creates the worst kind of boring situation for a reader, when they have long figured out what's going to happen and they're just turning pages, waiting for the main characters to catch up with them.
If you loved the characters it wouldn't matter if the ponderous wheels of the plot took their time to grind along familiar paths, you'd be along for the ride, cheering for the characters. But these characters are so annoying that it makes those grinding plot wheels seem so agonizingly slow.
If it wasn't for the storyline with the dwarf-like Funderlings I would never have been able to get through these books.
There is one saving grace to the series and that is the performance by Dick Hill. That guy is amazing! The variety of unique-sounding voices he can come up with is just astonishing. I especially loved his performances of Skarne, the raven, the many Funderlings, and Sulepis the Autarch. I will definitely look for Mr. Hill's other work.
Oh, and one last thing... thanks to this series I have a new pet peeve: starting off a chapter with a quote from *any* source. I've really become sick of that practice that seems so common in fantasy literature.
I can't recommend these books to other fans of fantasy -- but don't let this review turn you off of Tad Williams' work completely -- he's got some great stuff out there. Check out the "Memory, Sorrow, Thorn," or "Otherland" series. Or if you're into supernatural gumshoe type tales, definitely check out his Bobby Dollar books, starting with "The Dirty Streets of Heaven."
Till next time....
I completely understand why other reviewers were dissatisfied with this book -- because if you don't realize that this is just the first book in a series about the First Formic War, the book feels like it ends too abruptly.
If the publishers had just added the words "Book One" after the subtitle "The First Formic War" I think all those disgruntled reviewers would be singing a different tune. It wouldn't be a big deal if the war mentioned on the cover actually started in this book but it doesn't -- this is the set up for the war. So the cover is promising something that the story doesn't deliver.
Take note, publishers: people like to know what they are getting into -- trying to fool them will backfire on you every time.
That being said, if one does expect this book to be just the start of a series, then, to judge by this first book, it's going to be one heck of an exciting series!
OSC is in fine form -- the situations feel true and the characters feel very real. You can always rely on OSC for a "ripping good yarn" and this is no exception.
The narration is outstanding as well -- some of the best in the business.
OSC Enderverse fans will not be disappointed -- as long as they realize this is just the first installment in a series and that the actual "war" doesn't really start in this book.
I gave the Overall rating one less star for the misleading aspect of the book cover. Should they ever reprint this with the words "BOOK ONE" on the cover, I'll revise my rating.
As an American who has lived in both New York City and Los Angeles, it was the novelty of the setting, Moscow, Russia, that was most immediately enjoyable. The setting is almost a character of its own in this series.
When the Light incubus who specializes in "romance" cannot lift the spirits of the young woman who has cursed herself over her own guilt, Anton is sent in to try to help her although he has no idea what he's going to do. The scene that follows between Svetlana and Anton is one of the best in the book.
The Night Watch series doesn't go for emotional manipulation, instead it plants ideas and concepts in your head that will stay with you for a long time as you ponder them.
It is such pleasure to find a fantasy series of true quality. The only reason I rated the performance at three stars was that I felt it could have used more energy. The narrater is not monotonous by any means, but his voice is so smooth and gentle that he nearly put me to sleep while driving.
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