Congratulations to all the winners!

Gene Wolfe won the World Fantasy award in the best novel category for the third book in the Latro series, Soldier of Sidon.

A list of the winners is available on the Science Fiction Awards Watch blog.

Amber Spyglass

The Amber Spyglass
by Philip Pullman
560pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 7/10
Amazon Rating: 4/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.17/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.09/5

The Amber Spyglass is the third book in the His Dark Materials series. (I was going to say it was also the final book, but apparently Philip Pullman is writing a fourth book in the series called The Book of Dust.) While it was still a good book that I did not regret reading, I felt it was the weakest book in the series. There were many interesting ideas in this book, but the end just did not live up to my expectations. It was one of those books that had the potential to be excellent, but I put it down after reading the last sentence feeling like it should have been so much better than it was.

The story picks up where The Subtle Knife left off. After snatching Lyra, Mrs. Coulter hides her in the mountains and keeps her in a deep sleep. Will and Ama, a girl who brought food and supplies to Mrs. Coulter, sneak into the cave where Lyra is being kept and wake her from the drug-induced sleep. During her sleep, Lyra dreamed of speaking to Roger in the Land of the Dead and she and Will decide to go to this land.

Meanwhile, Mary Malone settles for a time in a world inhabited by beings called mulefa. The mulefa appear to be animals at first, but in fact are intelligent. Mary learns to communicate with the mulefa, and they ask for her help in saving a type of tree they are very dependent upon. While in this world, Mary constructs a spyglass that allows her to see Dust.

This book could have, in my opinion, been a bit shorter. The beginning was slow and hard to get into, parts of the middle dragged, and there was a lot more description in this book than the previous two. Description does not always bother me, but in this case it did because the series was about plot and action and all the exposition did little to advance the plot or enhance the story. The prose was well-written, but sometimes fewer words would have made the book flow a lot better.

The characters were better developed than in the previous books since some of the lines between good and evil were a bit blurrier here. However, the characters (other than Lyra) did seem fairly generic and lacking in distinct personality traits. Some of the changes in character were rushed and not very convincing. This is not surprising to me, since young adult novels generally focus more on plot and not as much on character development, but I always find a lack of good characterization disappointing.

This book continued to put a lot of emphasis on the evils of organized religion, particularly Catholicism. The way religion was woven into the storyline was a very fascinating idea with a lot of potential, but in the end, a lot of the themes were emphasized more than the story. The prophecies mentioned earlier in the book or series ended up having very anticlimactic conclusions, particularly the parallel between events in this book and the fall of Adam and Eve. The ending did not seem particularly satisfying or fitting to me.

Although I found this book to be a bit disappointing, I still enjoyed it and found it worth my time. The major problem I had with this book was that it had so much potential to be outstanding, but ultimately, it was merely a good book and nothing exceptional.



Since opinions differ on ratings and what exactly certain numbers mean, I thought I’d just write a summary of how I see it.

My ratings system is based on a 1 – 10 scale. Basically, anything on the low end (1 – 4) is bad, in the middle (5-6) is ok, and on the high end (7 – 10) is good.

The following is a more detailed explanation of the specific ratings:

10 – Outstanding. A book that stuck with me long after I put it down. The only books I would give a 10 rating would be books that made it into my list of favorite books ever.

9 – Excellent. The book was very good, but was better than your average good book by being unique or thoughtful, having great characterization, and/or just being a lot of fun to read.

8 – Very good. Not a book that kept me thinking about it a lot after I put it down, but very enjoyable and better than just a worthwhile book.

7 – Good. Worth reading but nothing spectacular or mind-blowing.

6 – All right. An ok book that had some interesting elements.

5 – Meh. It’s not terrible but nothing about it intrigued me for a second.

4 – Somewhat bad. Definitely not worth reading.

3 – Very bad. Not worth glancing at.

2 – Terrible. All memory of this book should be erased.

1 – Complete crap. The author must have had incriminating photos of somebody in the publishing industry. Books like this are almost enough to make one believe in book burnings.


I’m sorry to say I have no new reviews right now. I’m still reading the third book in the His Dark Materials trilogy, The Amber Spyglass. After that, I plan to read Making Money, the newest Discworld book by Terry Pratchett, followed by Lords of Rainbow by Vera Nezarian.

I might be a bit slow with reading for the near future, though, since I am currently spending a lot of my time in the evenings looking for work. This past week I found out I am being laid off so I’ve been busy with revising my resume and sending out cover letters in the evenings. My last day is this coming Friday, so I might be a bit faster after that since I may not have much else to do for a while. Finding new jobs in the area in which I live is not easy. Maybe I’ll just have to hope for my dream job of copy editing from home. 🙂

Anyway, I hope to be back to reading and reviewing again before too long, but for now, it might be slow going since I have other concerns that will have to take precedence over that. 🙁


Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal
by Christopher Moore
464pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 7.5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.39/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.39/5

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore is a humorous account of the life of Christ told from the perspective of an old friend of his. It starts with his life as a young boy and ends with the crucifixion and primarily focuses on the “missing” years that are absent from the gospels in the Bible.

As the best friend of Joshua (Jesus), Levi (more commonly called Biff) has been resurrected during modern times and spirited away to a hotel room where an angel forces him to write his gospel. After secretly reading the Gideon Bible in the bathroom, Biff can see why – he’s hardly even mentioned and a large part of Josh’s life is completely missing!

The first time Biff met Josh he realized he was an unusual boy. After all, how many other children can bring dead lizards back to life? His family says Josh’s mother is mad, but this doesn’t stop Biff from befriending the boy (anyway, who cares if she’s mad – she’s hot!). As children, they cement their friendship through playing childhood games like Moses and Pharoah, and they become practically inseparable. Forbidden to sin or know any women, Josh resists the advances of Mary of Magdala and relies on Biff to give him a firsthand account on what sin is like so he can teach people how to refrain from it someday. Eventually, Josh and Biff travel to Asia on a quest to find the three wise men and discover what Josh needs to know to fulfill his destiny.

This book would certainly be considered sacrilegious by some, although in the end Moore does not rewrite the parts of the Bible that he includes in the story. He expands on the stories in the Bible by adding humorous conversations and information such as how bunnies became associated with Easter, but he does not give explanations for miraculous events other than Christ being the Son of God (although it should be noted that some miracles were learned from the magi; however, Josh seemed to pick them up so easily due to who he was). This does not mean Josh behaves in a manner that a lot of people would expect from the Jesus in the Bible – as a child he punches Biff and he occasionally uses swear words. Lamb is a work of fiction and is not intended to be anything other than that, so if you cannot take the story of Jesus less than seriously, I would not recommend this book.

Lamb is heavy on dialogue and humor and is easy to read quickly. A lot of the conversations between Biff and Josh are very amusing, as well as Biff’s thoughts. There are a few bad puns, making the humor a bit too contrived at times, but in general, it is a funny story.

The ending gets a bit more serious since Moore does not stray from the Biblical account of the end of the life of Christ. I found myself surprisingly touched by Biff’s devotion to Josh and the devastation he felt at his death. This was a part I knew was coming, so I didn’t expect to be too upset over it, especially in a book that was supposed to be funny. Biff’s perspective on the death of his best friend was quite heart-wrenching, though. Since the entire story was told from the first person point of view of Biff, it was especially powerful.

I would recommend Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal to anyone looking for a light, fun book who can have a sense of humor about Christianity and speculation on what Jesus the person could have been like.


The Subtle Knife

The Subtle Knife
by Philip Pullman
368pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 7.5/10
Amazon Rating: 3/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.23/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.18/5

The Subtle Knife is the second book in the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman and continues the story begun in The Golden Compass. The series is considered young adult fantasy, although it certainly has some themes that would be better appreciated and understood by adult readers. While The Golden Compass was interesting and worth reading, I did not find it to be anything exceptional, although I probably would have been enthralled by it had I read it as a child. I thought The Subtle Knife was a more engaging, better written and plotted story than The Golden Compass and I look forward to reading the concluding volume of the series.

The Subtle Knife continues the story of Lyra and introduces a new character, a child named Will who befriends Lyra. The story actually begins with Will, which I found annoying at first since I wanted to know more about what happened to Lyra, particularly since the previous book had ended on a very promising note. However, I ended up really enjoying Will’s character and the development of his friendship with Lyra.

Will is a child from our world who has had to grow up quickly since his mother has issues with paranoia and obsessive compulsiveness. Afraid that his mother will be taken away from him if anyone finds out what she is really like, Will does not make friends and tries to protect her. When Will finds that some suspicious men have been asking questions at his home, he is forced to flee to another dimension. He finds the town he is in abandoned except for Lyra and Pantalaimon, who have also wandered into this world. At first, Lyra is terrified of Will since he has no daemon, but she soon realizes that he does have a daemon after all even though it is not visible.

Will and Lyra soon find the adults have fled the town they are currently in because of the Specters, an apparition that leaves adults still and lifeless. Children cannot see the Specters and the Specters do not bother children, so there are many children still in this town. Will ends up being chosen as the bearer of a knife the Specters fear. This knife has some unusual powers, but nobody, even the creators of the knife, know how powerful it is except for one man who must find the bearer of this knife to tell him what he must do.

As is often the case with young adult books, this story is very plot-driven, although I felt it did a better job of developing the characters than the first book did. There was no great depth of characterization in this book, but the characters seemed less flat and there were a few key moments that brought out just what type of person they were. Characters tend to very clearly fall into a “good” or “evil” category, with one or two exceptions. I’ll be interested in seeing what Pullman does with some of these characters in the final volume of the trilogy.

This book was shorter than The Golden Compass, but I thought this was a good choice. The plot moved along very well with fewer words and I thought the pacing of the story was well done. There was rarely a dull moment; in fact, the only slow part I can recall was in the beginning when I was trying to figure out what this new guy Will was doing there.

The Christian religion is the backdrop for a lot of the mythology in the story and I think Pullman develops and expands on these religious themes in a very compelling way. Christians, particularly Catholics, may find some of these themes offensive. The Catholic Church is featured in these books in a rather unfavorable light (as is not uncommon with speculative fiction books).

The Subtle Knife is an entertaining, easy to read story containing some insight into religion and the differences between innocence and experience. It is a light book with some not-so-light themes, perfect for when you are in the mood for a book that is short and fun yet not complete fluff.