May
20
2007

I had been looking forward to reading Altered Carbon, the debut by Scottish author Richard K. Morgan and the first book in his Takeshi Kovacs trilogy, for some time since I had read stellar reviews of it. I loved the Robot mysteries by Asimov (at least the last three, the first one was all right but not nearly as good as the later ones) and the way he intertwined science fiction with detective stories, so I had high hopes for this book which also was a sci fi detective story.

Takeshi Kovacs, a former Envoy from Harlan’s World, is sent to Earth by a powerful man named Laurens Bancroft to solve the mystery of Bancroft’s death. Yes, you read that right – death is not usually permanent at this time (about 500 years in the future) since a person’s memories and consciousness are stored in a cortical stack which could be downloaded to a new body. If the stack is destroyed, this would result in R.D. – real death. Bancroft’s memory of events leading up to his death did not get downloaded with him and he cannot believe he would kill himself, especially when he knows such an act would not accomplish anything since it was not permanent. Takeshi does not have much choice in the matter and gets caught up in a lot of skirmishes and intrigue in the process of discovering what happened.

The world in the story was fascinating to me. The results of living in a world where people could be around for hundreds of years in specialized bodies was interesting to me. I loved the little things in the story that told of the difficulty of meeting somebody you knew yet did not know when they were resleeved (the process of being downloaded into a new body – the bodies were called sleeves) – or when somebody new was sleeved into the body belonging to someone you used to know.

Unfortunately, I found the world Morgan created to be far more interesting than the actual story he was telling. It was a very action-packed story, but too action-packed for my taste since it was mostly action without much in the way of character development. It was very “male” – lots of sex, violence, and swearing. I wouldn’t recommend reading it if you’re offended by any of those since it wasn’t glossed over, but was quite graphic at times.

I might read the next two books in the series, Broken Angels and Woken Furies, since I’m curious about what happens, and Woken Furies is supposed to be about the part of the story I’d be more interested in – Kovacs’s past on Harlan’s World. I won’t be in any hurry to read them, though. I would probably give Altered Carbon a 5/10 for the story, but since I found the world really interesting, I’ll rate it a little higher…

6/10

It kind of reminded me of the David Farland’s Runelords series in that the story and writing weren’t particularly wonderful, but the world made it worth reading, although I liked the Runelords books better (even though the writing was worse).

Woken Furies has been out in the UK for some time, but according to Amazon, it won’t be out in the U.S. until the end of this month (May 29). That seems kind of odd since Morgan’s new book, Thirteen, is coming out in the U.S. on June 27th. (Thirteen is the U.S. title – it’s called Black Man in the U.K., but I guess that wasn’t a politically correct enough title for the U.S.) I’ve heard mixed reviews of Thirteen/Black Man – some people say it’s one of the scifi books of 2007, but I’ve also heard it’s too preachy for some people.

I finally got around to reading The Lies of Locke Lamora after hearing a lot of good things about this debut novel by Scott Lynch. At first, I was afraid it wasn’t going to live up to all the good things I had heard about it since I found it a little hard to get into in the beginning, but I ended up absolutely loving this book.

This is definitely not a book to read if you are looking to read something thought-provoking and insightful. However, it is something to read if you are looking for something entertaining. It’s a very dialogue heavy book, and a lot of the dialogue is clever and witty. Toward the beginning of the book, I thought it seemed like the dialogue was a bit forced and the author was trying too hard to make it seem clever, but it got better as the book went on.

One thing that some may find annoying is that the entire book switches back and forth between the past and the present. It isn’t confusing since the past parts are referred to as interludes (with the exception of the prologue, which goes between the past and further past without as much warning as to when it’s changed times). After the prologue, it smoothed out and I ended up enjoying the brief looks into the past.

The characters are wonderful. If you’re tired of goody-two-shoes characters who can do no wrong, this might be the book for you. The main character Locke Lamora is a priest of the Benefactor, a god of thievery, and a master of disguise. He and his friends in the priesthood are con men who make schemes to take some money of the hands of the rich noblemen in the city of Camorr, which seems to be modeled after an Italian city. Locke isn’t really an evil character, but he’s certainly not good either. If you’re familiar with D&D alignments, I’d call him some sort of neutral (but definitely not lawful neutral). Also, he’s actually a fantasy book main character who is not good at fighting at all – he’s much better at using his brain. (And, just to be clear, he’s not a mage of any sort either – just a clever rogue.)

I could not put this book down, and I thought it was a fairly unique fantasy book. It did have it’s flaws early on and it’s not what I’d call a masterpiece of literature, but I had so much fun with it and found it different enough from normal fantasy literature that I have to give it a pretty good score. It was the most entertaining book I’d read in quite a while.

9.5/10

The Lies of Locke Lamora is the first book in The Gentleman Bastards series (but don’t worry, there is no cliffhanger ending and the book is a complete story by itself). The next book in the series Red Seas Under Red Skies will be available on July 31 of this year. I can’t wait – it’s on my Amazon wish list already!

I’m a little behind on my reviewing lately (three books) so I’m going to combine the two Discworld books I just read into one review. The last review on Discworld pretty much said in general what they are like anyway.

Night Watch was a Vimes book, and it was probably one of the better Discworld books (but then, Vimes is one of my favorite Discworld characters). In this book, Vimes is chasing a criminal and both he and the criminal get taken to the time of a revolution that occurred in the past when Vimes was just starting out in the Watch. The criminal kills Vimes’s mentor when he arrives so now it’s left to Vimes to teach himself everything he knows. It was hilarious and it was fun to see some of the characters as their younger selves.

9/10

Monstrous Regiment had brief appearances by Vimes and William de Worde from The Truth, but the main character was a young woman from Borogravia named Polly who has not appeared in any of the previous Discworld books. The Borogravians follow the teachings of a rather unreasonable god by the name of Nuggan, whose teachings state that women should not dress like a man. In order to find her brother during a time of war, Polly disguises herself as a man by cutting her hair and using a pair of socks to make herself look more “manly” and joins the army. This is more serious than most of the Discworld books and doesn’t have as many lines that make you crack up as most of them do, but I loved the themes of gender and religion (and don’t get me wrong, it is still funny and very enjoyable).

8/10

I looked up whether or not there was a date for the next Discworld book on Amazon yesterday, and it says the next book Making Money will be available on October 1, 2007. I believe I read in an interview with Pratchett that this book includes the characters from Going Postal and they do something similar for the banking system as they did for the postal system in that book.

Apr
22
2007

Ysabel, by Guy Gavriel Kay, was the first novel by the author I have read. I was fortunate enough to win a copy from Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, which has a lot of book giveaway contests. This will definitely not be the last of Kay’s novels I read; I almost picked up Tigana the other day but opted to buy a copy of Patrick Rothfuss’s debut novel The Name of the Wind without the Fabio cover instead while I had the chance.

Ysabel is supposed to have ties to Kay’s earlier work, The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy. Apparently, a lot of events the character’s mention without really filling in the details of what happened occurred in these books. I’m sure it helps to have read The Fionavar Tapestry before reading Ysabel, but I don’t think it’s necessary to read them first. I didn’t feel lost reading the book because of not having read The Fionavar Tapestry, although I was curious about the parts of the backstory that were referred to without being explained.

From what I understand, the writing style of Ysabel is very different from Kay’s other work. It was not what I had expected after reading about his beautiful prose. Ysabel is very simply written and reads like a young adult novel, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it fits since the main character is a 15 year old boy, and although it is not written in first person, the only character’s thoughts who are revealed to us are his thoughts.

This is also different in that it is contemporary fantasy, meaning it takes place in the present (and that was entirely in the present – it wasn’t one of those books where somebody from the modern world gets taken to some sort of fantasy world). I haven’t read much contemporary fantasy, so I found it kind of amusing to read references to Starbucks and google and iPods in a fantasy book.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot of this book since it was one of those books where you didn’t want to put down the book because you wanted to find out what happens next and I don’t want to take that fun away from anybody. So I’ll just say a little about the beginning of the story.

Fifteen year old Ned Marriner is on a trip to Aix-en-Provence in France with his father, a well-known photographer working in the area. Ned explores the Saint-Saveur Cathedral while they are there for a photo shoot, and meets a geeky American exchange student around his age named Kate who knows a lot about the history of the area. While they are in the cathedral, a man comes up through the grate saying that “he” wasn’t there and that “he” enjoyed playing games. Ned and Kate think the man has left, but Ned finds he can sense the man’s presence and tells him to come out. The mysterious man does come out and informs them that they have “blundered into the corner of a very old story” and that they should leave it alone. Of course, they just become further entangled in the events of the story and the competition between a Roman and a Celt.

The characters are all unique and interesting, but I wouldn’t consider it a character-driven book. You don’t really get into any of the character’s heads other than Ned’s and it’s not one of those books where I was sad about leaving the characters behind or felt like there was really deep characterization. It was a page-turner, though, and wanting to find out what happens kept me reading. I also liked the little tidbits about the history of the area, and the details about the area were probably pretty exact since Kay actually wrote the book while staying near Aix-en-Provence.

I’d give it 8/10, and I would definitely read it again sometime.

After reading Hyperion, I decided it was time to read something lighter, so I picked up Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett. At this point, I’ve read most of the Discworld series, but there are a few of them I haven’t yet read and this one was next in publication order.

Thief of Time is definitely an enjoyable, humorous story. Other than Death and Susan and a couple of brief appearances by Nanny Ogg, it does not contain any of the usual Discworld characters but it does introduce several new ones. Somebody could pick up this book without having read any of the other Discworld books and still enjoy it, although it might be helpful to know some about Susan’s past just to see where she is coming from in the story (but that certainly is not necessary for reading this book).

In Thief of Time, a woman known as Lady LeJean visits a young clockmaker named Jeremy and gives him supplies (including an Igor) for building the world’s first truly accurate clock. Jeremy, who is very obsessed with time and clocks, is intrigued by this idea and begins work on the clock not knowing that it will cause time to stop once it has been completed.

Meanwhile, a sweeper/monk of the order of the Monks of History named Lu-Tze is training a new apprentice, Lobsang, who has a natural talent. Lu-Tze learns all about Lobsang’s mysterious abilities while Lobsang learns all about Rule 1 (“Do not act incautiously when confronting a little bald wrinkly smiling man”). Lu-Tze and Lobsang find out about the imminent destruction of the Discworld and travel to Ankh-Morpork to try to stop it.

Death begins preparing for the upcoming Apocalypse. He first tries to get his grand daughter Susan involved in trying to stop the end of the world, then rides off to attempt to gather the other 3 horsemen of the Apocalypse, which turns out to be harder than he thought – Pestilence is too frightened, Famine is too arrogant, and War is too hen-pecked by Mrs. War.

This was not my favorite Discworld book, but it certainly wasn’t my least favorite either. (I tend to like the Watch books, Death books, and Small Gods – a great stand alone Discworld book – the best and the Witch books the least.)

Thief of Time is a fun book you can read pretty quickly, but while it could be considered light reading, it still contains deeper meaning. I’ve never seen anybody able to write humorous, non-verbose books that are still very philosophical like Pratchett does. He must be a genius to have that talent.

I would definitely read this book again.

Rating:
8.5/10

I was quite busy for a while and unfortunately hadn’t had time to write. Or the time to read much, for that matter. I seem to be getting more time to read in now, though. Currently, I’m reading Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett. It was time for a lighter read since I just finished the four books in Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos (Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and The Rise of Endymion).

Overall, I liked the series, although I would not consider it one of my favorites by the time I was finished with it. It was definitely an enjoyable series, but it had a few continuity issues that were mildly annoying to me, and were even more annoying to others (like my fiance, who couldn’t even bring himself to finish the series because of the continuity issues). The other problem both my fiance and I had with the series was how fantastic things just happened with no explanation whatsoever as to how or why. The last two books seem to me as though perhaps they would have been better as a part of a separate series since Simmons had to change parts of the previous two books in order to make them work and they used mostly different characters anyway. They also failed to answer a lot of the questions I had after reading the first two books, and a lot of the mysteries that were repeatedly mentioned in The Rise of Endymion were never solved.

The first book in the series, Hyperion, starts with 7 individuals who have been sent on a pilgrimage to the planet Hyperion. To pass the time, the pilgrims decide to each tell their story about why they were chosen for this pilgrimage, so the book is basically made up of a few short stories with their journey told in between each tale. I am not generally a fan of short stories, but I found each of these stories to be interesting, although some were more than others. I found I appreciated some of the ones I did not enjoy as much initially far more when I read the sequel and found out more about how the stories related to each other and the world Simmons created.

My favorite story was the tale of the scholar Sol Weintraub about his daughter Rachel, followed by Brawne Lamia’s telling of her involvement in a murder case as a private investigator. I also loved the stories about Martin Silenus writing his Cantos and the priest Lenar Hoyt’s search for Father Paul Dure, who had been exiled to Hyperion. Colonel Kassad’s story focuses on his military experience and encounters with a mysterious woman named Moneta. The Consul’s tale tells of his grandparents fated meeting on the island of Maui-Covenant. Each story is, of course, much more interesting and involved than that, but I don’t want to spoil the most interesting parts for people who have not read the book!

Hyperion set the stage for The Fall of Hyperion, which delves more into how the various stories told in Hyperion tie together and what the actual society is like. It introduces a new character who has the ability to dream about what is happening to the Hyperion pilgrims. Their stories on Hyperion are completed in this book. I don’t want to say too much about the plot and spoil the book because I found the way all the stories tied together a lot of fun to discover. I did enjoy this book more than Hyperion for that reason.

Endymion takes place 247 years after The Fall of Hyperion ends and has a new set of main characters. The narrator, Raul, is found by Martin Silenus and sent on a mission to rescue Brawne Lamia’s daughter Aenea from the clutches of the Catholic Church (which is now a major force in the universe due to their control of a symbiote allowing people to resurrect when they die). This book focuses on the travels of Raul, Aenea, and the android A. Bettik as Father Captain de Soya of the Catholic Church tries to capture them and fulfill the mission given him by the pope. This book tells you about what the future in this universe is like, but it does not really involve further world building. There are some really humorous lines in it and I found both the beginning and end of the book a lot of fun, but around the middle it seemed to go a bit slowly.

The Rise of Endymion could be infuriating, but it was also my favorite book in the series. This book had a lot of continuity problems and it said that a lot of what happened in The Fall of Hyperion did not happen the way the book said it did. It also mentioned a lot of things that just kind of happened without any explanation as to why or how. A lot of mysteries went unsolved. I found the lack of closure about who the Others were very annoying since they were mentioned many, many times throughout the book. Also, I had predicted the largest parts of the ending to the novel about 3 or 4 hundred pages before it was done (and I’m really not at all good at figuring out how books will end).

If you can look past all that, the story of Aenea and Raul told in The Rise of Endymion is beautiful. There were moments toward the end that I kept thinking about and was still thinking about two days later. I even went back and read some of them again the next day.

Characterization is one of my favorite parts of reading, so I’d like to say something about the characterization. The characters are certainly interesting, but we never get to see inside enough of the characters in the first two Hyperion books for me to feel too attached to them. They have their good points, and they have their flaws, but I think there are just too many of them in a short span to really get attached to any of them too much. The exception to this is Sol. I loved his story and I loved his character, and it always seemed to me like all the other characters liked him best and looked out for him the most. I guess he was just a likable guy.

Since the Endymion books focus more on a smaller cast of characters, I felt like you got to know them a bit better, but other than Raul and Father de Soya they seemed a bit flat to me although I liked them well enough. Raul was a bit on the slow side but he had some great humorous lines as the narrator and he was loyal to Aenea and very courageous and unselfish. Actually, the Ship was a great character – I found it more amusing than most of the other characters when I was reading Endymion.

So that’s basically what I thought of the Hyperion Cantos. I had a lot of mixed feelings about the books, but overall I think they’re worth reading.

Would I read them again? Yes, but probably not immediately.

I would rate them as follows (on a scale from 1 – 10):
Hyperion – 7.5
The Fall of Hyperion – 8
Endymion – 7
The Rise of Endymion – 8.5