Saturday, August 14, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Many and profuse thanks to my buddy Bookmonkey for recommending this totally awesome series way back whenever he did. It was months ago. Check out his blog, there's a lot of awesomeness over there.
Night Watch is kind of the Russian version of The Dresden Files, but better. (Please don't kill me, Dresden fans. He's awesome too.) It follows Anton Gorodetsky's life as a low-level operative of the Night Watch, the organization of good-guy magic-users devoted to foiling the plots of the Day Watch, the bad guys. They have a careful truce set up, so that for every good deed THEY do, the bad guys get to do one EVIL deed, and vice versa.
So, they don't do all that much good. What makes them the good guys, again?
That's what the book is about. It's totally frikkin awesome. There's some navel-staring toward the end, but for the most part it's action, magic, chase scenes, and murders! It's divided up into three separate parts with some time in between each one, so we get an overview of a slightly bigger picture, three major events happening in sequence. We see some of the consequences of actions further down the road that we (or I, at least) never saw coming. It's like life, like that.
In a book with a theme like this, you expect to get a lot of Dark, Broody, Controversial characters (i.e. characters with no redeeming qualities whatsoever), and there is some of that, but I really like these characters and I like how all of them have legitimate reasons for their actions. Not just excuses or "I have to have motivation for my villains" reasons, REAL reasons. Of course, Anton is my favorite, and in no small part because he's one of the few characters who doesn't want to take part in the dance and the compromises, who doesn't just assume things are they way they should be because someone else tells him they are.
This is a book about subtlety. And it's about plots, and intrigue, and mysteries. And also about hurling fireballs. And a note on the translation: Absolutely flawless. I never would've guessed that it was originally in Russian, there's no awkwardness at all, and the writing isn't only competent, it's amazing.
Really, there wasn't a thing about it that I didn't love. There are three sequels, which I'll be reading as soon as possible: Day Watch, Twilight Watch, and Last Watch.
Buy Night Watch
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
So, I'm a little shy today, because I got this book for review from the author, so it's a fair bet she's going to be reading the review shortly. Of course I'll be my usual honest, nitpicky self, not to worry. I was afraid I was going to have to be scathingly rude and snipey, but I'm shy because I liked it, so I'm a bit giggly, and I'm shy because I'm still going to be nitpicky right in her face. Am I allowed to criticize when she's published and I'm not? I'm going with a resounding "yes." This entire blog is me criticizing published authors, so I think my opinion on that should be obvious. But that's probably an essay of it's own.
Anyway, the book. It's a novelette, which means it could be considered a very short novel, but it has the structure and scope of a short story. It's about the a girl who is the last swamp elf in the world and lives with the big lizard people (the Reptar) who hate her guts. She meets a human, falls in love with him, and has to choose between him and causing the destruction of the entire Reptar race.
First, the sniping. There are a lot of what I consider simple mistakes in the first ten or fifteen pages: "as you know, Bob," fantasy names that sound made up, etc. There just seem to be too many words on the pages, when those sentences could be much more streamlined and get to the point a lot faster. I don't want to have to sit and decipher oddly phrased sentences when we could be getting on with the plot. I also think the Reptar are too human--just humans wearing crocodile suits, really. I would expect a reptilian culture to be noticeably different from a primate culture, just for starters. They wouldn't build things the same way. But that was less important as the story went on.
After about twenty pages, I was far too interested to continue making notes. Rhonda's strength definitely looks to be in the area of plotting, (Twists! Reversals! A totally unexpected ending, but still a square peg in a square hole!) and worldbuilding to a slightly lesser extent. A lot of it is pretty standard fantasy fare; some of it is fascinating. The Reptars have a post-technological society centered around a magic stone that seems to be alive in some way. It kind of creeped me out, but it's supposed to be benevolent. I'm terribly curious. It reminds me of Interstellar Pig, and oh, how I love Interstellar Pig...! Also, I thought the romance was done really well. It rang true.
You can read the first chapter at Rhonda Parrish's site, as well as see a bigger picture of the cover. (I'm not crazy about most of it, to be honest, but I love the Reptar in the background and you can't see his teeth in my little picture.) Keep in mind that it gets much better than the first chapter, after the plot picks up. If you like it, you can buy it here, or go here to browse her other work. (More stories set in this 'verse, surely?)
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Some other reviews led me to believe I was going to hate this and deride it mercilessly for being utter crap, but I don't and won't. I kind of loved it, and I'll tell you why.
It's not because of the historical accuracy. That obviously wasn't a concern here. The story was based on one image, and focused on what might have happened to achieve a moment like that. This is a highly stylized, highly fetishized, highly modern-opinion-ized version of Rome.
It wasn't because the heroine was likeable, because she wasn't. There's not anything likeable about her at all, really, except maybe her perseverance. But she's interesting. I'm not asked to like her, only to understand her.
It was because this is a really great pulp action novel. Blood, sex, violence, exotic locations, intrigue. The writing flows well and isn't too stylized or self-aware, and it's no chore to read. It's not a timeless work of literature or one of my favorite books, but it'll only take one afternoon to read. Embrace the glorious VIGOR of it, the intensity that's so serious as to be a bit silly. It's liberating. It's the perfect vacation book, whether you're on vacation or not. A bucket of popcorn wouldn't be amiss, either.
It sort of reminded me of Mara, Daughter of the Nile... Mara is a cut above, though, better history and focused on absolutely delicious intrigue.