Thursday, January 27, 2005

Harry Dresden series, by Jim Butcher

Light amusement, but kinda thin on the ground.

So theres this guy, right? And hes a wizard? And he admits it, and advertises in the paper, and everything. But noone believes that hes a wizard. And he casts some kick-butt spells right in front of people, blowing holes in walls and such, and he doesnt try to hide it or explain it away, but noone believes him. And yet, while they all think hes a crackpot, they all refuse to meet his eyes because of some deep-seated instinctual fear of wizards that Ive never heard of, that involves them stealing your soul. But they don't believe hes a wizard. Oh, and hes starving and barely paying the rent - because noone really believes hes a wizard - even though he can do real magic and call lightning from storms and such, and hes not trying to hide that. What? Just chuck a fireball on Geraldo and sit back and watch the cash flow in...

Whatever. Easy reading, kinda amusing; don't think too hard about the plots or the setup. Gandalf meets Sam Spade. Would've worked better if he was trying to keep it a secret and just playing private eye; then we'd understand why noone beleives him. I got what I paid for; library books.

Several books later:

Actually, these are getting a lot more compelling as the series moves along. Still pretty fluffy, but the dialogue is funny and the plots fairly interesting and twisted. Once you get past the silliness of the premise as a whole they're pretty well crafted. Worth reading the set, though I doubt I'll remember to watch for new ones.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Dawn of Amber, Chaos and Amber, To Rule in Amber, by John Gregory Betancourt

Didn't make it.

The books aren't really bad per se, but they don't capture the fire of the originals. If they weren't trying to be Amber they'd merely be a bit bland; as it is they're a bit of a disappointment. And yes, I am a mad fan of Zelazny, and his Amber books were some of my favorite books ever growing up, but I am not just a starry-eyed zealot with blurry teenaged memories of a greatness that never was. I re-read Zelazny's Amber just before reading these, and the originals are not quite the paragons of fantasy that I remember, but they still have a grandeur and epic scale that Betancourt fails to capture in these sequels. Zelazny lets us share the view of a bewildered outsider as he comes to term with memories he never knew he had; Betancourt gives us an almost identical hero in almost identical straights - having no memory of his true heritage - but Betancourts Ober simply takes it all in casual stride despite no flood of repressed memories coming back to him to explain it all. Zelazny takes us to fantastic new worlds; Betancourt leaves us stranded in an obscure house - which is never even particularly described - for most of the middle book. Zelazny returns to Amber to play "what if" games with the edges of the rules of magic he rather cavalierly scatters about in the first series; Betancourt seems content to fall back to Zelazny's earlier style of flash without much thought or explanation.

Ugh. Just read the third one in the series and it got worse; nothing resolved and nothing really interesting happened. I got the impression the author didn't know how many books in the series the publisher would pay for, so he was trying to keep everything open in case theyd cough up for more.

And another thing. I'm the first person who'll tell you most modern fantasy is too long-winded, but I do like to get my moneys worth out of a book. This series was a large-sized trade paperback, with huge typeset, huge margins, and huge spacing. Looked like one of those reports you do in school where you've been told to write 6 pages on a topic... I mean sure, be brief, but dont then stretch it out so you can charge me more for it. I dont blame the author for that though; bad publisher, no biscuit! (ibooks)

Kil'n People, by David Brin


A near-ish future detective story set in a world where people can make copies of themselves (dittos or dits) which they can then send off to do various tasks, only to download the memories back into the original at the end of the day.

Brin takes a truly weird idea for a technology, and then sets about looking at how it would change people and society - good ole fashioned speculative fiction - without getting all hung up on how the technology is supposed to work. His world had the off-kilter feel of something my Michael Marshall Smith, with a bit of the same humour, and the same edge and wryness we came to know and love from Brin in his Uplift books. The only faint blemish on this book - and it is faint - is also familiar from the end of the Uplifts; he seems to want his books to end in massive events of universe-shaking significance. In what otherwise felt like a detective story with a cool twist, the shift was a little abrupt (but only a little, and I loved it anyways.)

Definitely a keeper.

To blog, or not to blog?

Unconvinced this is the right technology for this; think I'd rather have something a little more organised and less sequential. Still, this gets me putting fingers to keyboard now, which is what I want. I can always shift it elsewhere later.

A few words of description, in case anyone else stumbles upon this, my little corner of the latest technofad called blogspace: I did not write this for you. You are welcome here, and if anything I write informs or amuses you then I am glad; if it irritates you or drives you to ecstacies of rage well, I hope you enjoy that too but I don't really care. This blog is here for me to record my impressions of books as I read them, so that the sieve I call my brain can give up on holding character names and plotlines and authors names and just desperately try to retain this site's address. The rest is pure uninformed opinion about the books - if you are looking for proper reviews you are lost. Oh, and the books I read are mostly fantasy and science fiction, so if you're not into either one then you are doubly lost.