Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Review: The Long Mars

The Long Mars The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Since I don't want to add spoilers, I'll keep this very general.
The third part of The Long Earth series was - for me - a bit better than the second (The Long War). There were some interesting story lines which actually included some action. Sadly, it turned out the author(s) can't really write action scenes, so they ended up being boring. Still, that's a vast improvement over nothing happening at all!
Speaking of which, there were multiple occasions in which a potential action was stopped in its tracks by either "and then they moved on" or "they did that dangerous/difficult thing" without any explanation as to how they actually managed to pull it off.
What I still despise most in this series, and it happened again in The Long Mars, is the way almost all information is conveyed through conversation between the characters. In the last book, I had heavy objections against people discussing other people/beings/potential enemies even - while they were present and listening. This time, it was a different matter: if I know, from the main characters in the book, that something terrible might happen at a certain place, I expect them to bring people to somewhere else. They, instead, brought them to that place - and then were surprised when danger called. Seriously? You knew, damn it!

Anyway, the book was a bit better than the last (no conversations about people in front of them and more things actually happening), and there's only one left to read. I guess I'll be able to cope with that as well (after a break with a potentially more interesting book).

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Saturday, 31 October 2015

Review: Heroes Die

Heroes Die Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Don't judge a book by its cover - especially not this.
I bought it as a blind date book, wrapped in brown paper with just a few keywords for guidance. I regretted that when I unwrapped it and judged by the cover, but not after I had started reading it. This book is seriously awesome. OK, it's also bloody brutal, but, surprisingly, I could handle that. Let me start at the beginning, though.

It takes some time to read far enough into the book to grasp the setting (but it's very well done, the explaining within the story), so let me give you an introduction.
The story takes place somewhere in our future - when English is almost the only spoken language left on earth. The society is a rigid caste system, with Laborers, Professionals, Administrators, Businesspeople, and Leisurefolk. At some point in their past, humans discovered that there are parallel universes which, kind of, vibrate at different frequencies, and can therefore be reached by changing your own frequency. One of the parallel worlds is called "Overworld" - and it is here that the fantasy part of the novel happens. On Overworld live not only humans, but also elves, dwarfs, ogres, trolls and so on; there's magick and very real and present gods.
People from Earth send Actors to this world to have Adventures. These can be experienced in real time (or recorded) by the rich and bored on Earth for entertainment. Great, huh? The most famous Actor right then is Hari Michaelson, also known as Caine, whose main talent is killing people. In Heroes Die, he is sent to Overworld to rescue his wife, who doesn't know that she lost her connection to Earth and is - therefore - about to die in a few days. And he won't stop hurting (and killing) people until she is safe.

Strong points of the book:
Emotion. The reader gets to feel what Caine feels, just like his audience on Earth (or almost). That's great to keep you glued to the book, but also means you get to imagine how it feels to have someone stick a sword through your liver (just as an example). Yay?
Action. There is almost no time to breathe, or put that book down. Very good craftsmanship of Matthew Woodring Stover - all around, by the way, that man knows how to tell a story without having to talk to the reader directly (except for once breaking the fourth wall very effectively), or obviously inventing scenes just to get some explanations across.

Warning: If you do not like sarcasm, swearwords, casual rape (mentioned in passing), or lots of graphic violence much, this might not be the right book for you. On the other hand, I don't like violence or torture either, but still loved that book.

I have two questions left in my head the - otherwise wonderfully written - novel did not answer: how does the Ritual work and what's that about the black Shell? Maybe the latter will be answered in the next book in the series, which is unfortunately no longer available in print.

Conclusion? Heroes Die is a SciFi & fantasy mix that's very well done, (but also) full of violence and testosterone. It was so vastly different from the Long Earth books I've read before that I loved it right from the start - no more boredom! I don't know how I'll be able to cope with The Long Mars now... Oh, wait, I'll get the next Cain novel (Blade of Tyshalle) as eBook afterwards, and I'm already looking forward to that!

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Thursday, 15 October 2015

Review: The Long War

The Long War The Long War by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The second instalment of The Long Earth was a bit more enjoyable for me than the first. Since most of the characters were already established - and the setting as well - there was more room for real development and action. Nevertheless, I'm still fighting with the writing style at times. These are my two main qualms:
Imagine you're some kind of hostage, in a room with the people who've captured you and some of your friends. Would you expect your friends to openly talk about their interpretation of the other people's motives? Would you expect the others not reacting to that in any way? That was a very, very weird situation - or description of a situation.
My second problem is the lack of climax - at least that's what it still feels like for me. Suddenly, all the different story lines and problems are resolved. Sometimes with no real explanation I could see/understand, or a change of heart for no apparent reason. Then the book is over and I'm left wondering what it was that I read, hanging in limbo, so to speak. Not very satisfying.
Will it get better in the next book? We'll see...

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Saturday, 12 September 2015

Review: The Long Earth

The Long Earth The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

"The Long Earth" was only OK to me, which at Goodreads means only two stars, although I would tend to three.

I bought the book because I love Terry Pratchett's work and my boyfriend likes SciFi. Also, I was curious - and the idea behind the book is really interesting and worth exploring. The problems I had all originated from the writing style.

I won't complain that it didn't sound like a TP book. It has two authors on the cover, so I didn't expect a typical Pratchett. I did, however, hope for some humour (which I didn't find). That alone is not a good reason for such a low rating, though. For this, I have two other reasons:
First, the dialogue. The characters are suddenly faced with a reality where a (probably) unlimited supply of parallel Earths becomes accessible to them. They can't explain it any more than the reader can, but of course they discuss this (and related phenomena) a lot. And of course I wanted to read what they had to say; only, there were road blocks. Someone would say something interesting, and before I could read an equally interesting answer, I had to figuratively climb over a "XY said,". Sometimes, this (traditional?) writing style really disrupted the flow of the story.
Secondly, there were multiple moments when the characters seemed to be extremely sure about what needed to be done and would just go ahead and do it - but I didn't know why this specific action was the only possible way (even if someone could get hurt). I'm not sure if it was my lack of experience with SciFi, or the way the book was written, but I had problems following the story, understanding the characters and motifs... Things that a reader should be able to do in a good book.
That justifies giving only two stars in my opinion.

Nevertheless, I will probably get the second book as well, and give the whole thing another try. As I said earlier, the concept is interesting, and I hope that somehow now that the stage is set it will get better.

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