The Crippled God

•June 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Oh, look, a book I read nearly a year ago but for some reason never published my article about. Huh.

crippled-god

It’s finally over. The Malazan Book of the Fallen. All ten 1000+ page novels, with intricately interweaving casts and plots, it’s done. (Except for those new books coming out, shh!)

And now the dust has cleared, the cards are on the table, and I have to say… this was probably the weakest book in the whole franchise.

Now, I get the first book was somewhat intended as a standalone, developed originally as a feature film script based off Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont’s GURPS campaign. Combine that with the decade between it and the second novel, Deadhouse Gates, and you have a great recipe for things not lining up at all by the end. (Didn’t Fener already die in Memories of Ice?) I accept that, it’s natural in a long-ass story like this. But the resolution to this novel, and by extension the entire series, is not anything close to what I expected and I’m frankly a little bewildered by it. The ending is boring and ultimately it doesn’t really ring true to me.

The Crippled God himself is a God from another universe altogether, dragged into the Malazan one several millenia earlier and chained because of dumb reasons. In doing so, he was mutilated and became a bitter force of suffering, hating everyone and just wanting to see everyone dead. He’s been kind of floating about since the early books mostly as a concept but actively fucking with things about halfway through. This is a great concept, I’ve thought it really awesome since I first read it. There had been very little indication the series would lead towards doing something about him, however, and it seemed to be actively painting several other threats as the real issue facing the world. So it came out of left field for me that not only was everything bending towards neutralizing him but the good guys, the Bonehunters, were actually going to help him go home and be friendly!

Is it good or is it ain’t?

It’s good enough. I mean, you won’t be reading this without having read the previous nine books, right? So by this point, it could be a picture book in the style of Richard Scarry and we’d probably all be choking it down. Could you pick this up without any background or context and go “yeah, this is a rockin’ story!”? Hell no. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this was even a great ending to the series, because it abruptly changes gears from Endless War to, well, not necessarily something happy, considering all the lovely characters who bite it, but it doesn’t end how you’d expect. It feels off, like Erikson just wanted it done with and chose the path of least resistance.

That being said, if you got past Midnight Tides, you’re probably in this for the long haul and have no choice but to read this book. So who cares what I think?

Lost & Found

•June 9, 2013 • Leave a Comment

lost and found

Lost and Found is about a man named Marc, a commodities trader from Chicago. He sells chocolate on the exchanges, and uses this gift to pick up chicks. While on a camping trip, Marc is abducted by aliens who, in a fit of irony, wish to sell him as a commodity.

On his adventure, Marc meets a dog named George, a squid named Sque, and a shambling horror named Braouk. Though from different worlds, they become friends and work to escape their captivity.

This book establishes its four main characters well. Each has a distinct voice, and the alien races are nicely varied.

Unfortunately, Foster’s idea of alien names involves a lot of J’s and apostrophes. It gets tiresome.

Is it good or is it ain’t?

It’s good. Most Alan Dean Foster stuff is readable in a light, enjoyable way. Perfect for lazy afternoons.

I wrote this post with the keyboard set to Dvorak. It took most of an hour!

Kill me.

I deserve exactly what happened to me.

•May 14, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I don’t drink regularly enough to develop a tolerance for alcohol. My strategy for when I do drink is to get stuff which is kind of gross but still good, so I won’t get really hammered yet still enough to enjoy myself. Usually that means I wind up getting beer or spirits to mix into things. But, ah, no, you see, this time I thought “hey, I deserve tasty alcoholic drinks” so I got me a bottle of Sandeman.

It’s tasty! Kind of sweet, which surprised me considering it’s dark red colouration.

It’s also 19.5% alcohol.

I deserve exactly what happened to me.

NEGATIVE

Count Zero

•April 24, 2013 • Leave a Comment

countzero

When I got my hands on Snow Crash, I also picked up Count Zero. I had read Neuromancer before and enjoyed it, so I figured a sequel to it would be alright. But strictly speaking, this is not a sequel at all.

Count Zero is a three-POV novel, following an art gallery manager named Marly, a rookie hacker named Bobby, and a corporate mercenary named Turner. The book is not very long, it’s taken me so much time to read because, frankly, it is dull. It starts off with explosions! Boom! Turner is blown up by a pheromone-seeking drone! (It’s okay, he gets over it.) Boom! Bobby’s home is blown up after he tries to use ultra-black market software! Boom! Marly, uh, has a job interview with a wealthy man who lives in a nutrient vat. Then it meanders for the next 150 pages before things start to gel a bit as the stories converge.

Everything turns out to be connected, but Marly is left off on her own without ever actually crossing over with the other two characters. They are connected through background machinations only. While each story on its own is interesting and paced well internally, the way the book is interwoven between them has a tendancy to make the first 200 pages drag like a bastard. Sure, there’s explosions at first, but then Bobby spends a lot of his story hanging out with voudun practitioners who tell him about loas and horses, eventually winding up in a tense siege position in a nightclub. Once in a while, Baron Samedi puts in an appearance!

The internet is a scary place.

The internet is dark and full of terrors.

Turner’s is the most action-packed. He’s blown up, surgically reconstructed, goes on a new secret mission where basically everyone but him dies, and after he escapes he… hops in a car and drives to New York. It takes him a while and along the way he stops to have a beer with his brother. Marly’s is the most interesting, really, as she’s involved in an espionage-y kind of thing while seeking the artist who makes boxes filled with random items, and some really interesting ideas are raised. But there are zero explosions, so fuck that shit.

If you were expecting a direct sequel to Neuromancer, you’ll be disappointed. I was. Wintermute is not in this book, nor is Case nor Molly Millions. Count Zero takes place several years later and is in many ways unrelated, being just another story in the same universe. It is connected to Neuromancer but I will encourage you to read the book and discover just what that connection is.

Is it good or is it ain’t?

It’s good. It wasn’t what I was expecting, and it really kind of feels like it’s purely the set-up for the next book, which I generally find an intolerable circumstance. It doesn’t feel like anything is really resolved at the end; Marly finds her artist, Bobby does important hacking stuff, and Turner kills a bunch of squirrels. But I don’t really feel any closure. What did any of them accomplish? Was there any point to any of this? And why the hell is the book named Count Zero? That’s Bobby’s hacker name and he’s not exactly the main character here. And yet, I can’t say it was bad. Just… off.

Mr. Gibson, you totally misanticipated what people would call themselves on the internet when you wrote these things back in the early 80’s. It’s not cool shit like Acid Burn or Count Zero, it’s ridiculous gothy stuff like ~-[xXx]-sTrAwBeRrY_GaShEs-[xXx]-~ or racist, xenophobic stuff like BULLETS CURE ISLAM.

To Kill a Mockingbird

•April 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I always feel an odd sense of dread when I pick up a book like this. People hold up certain books as Part of the Canon, that if you haven’t read this book You Are Not Well-Read, you Have No Appreciation of Literature. Most people read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school, and indeed most of the people I know from high school did read it there. But I never did.

My favourite author brings this book up in his most recent novel, Caine’s Law. The main character, Caine, is sitting in a hospital bed and casually discusses with his captors how a person’s favourite character from To Kill a Mockingbird says a lot about them as people. The captors give their answers, Atticus being one of them, and Caine surprises them by saying his favourite is Boo Radley, the rarely-seen bogeyman. So I wanted to read this book, to understand what it all meant. Who were these people? What was going on? Why was this book one of Those Books People Have to Read?

So I picked up a copy and here we are. I liked it well enough. But I’m not in love with it. It’s slow and it drags and it is largely about things which are irrelevant to me, in situations I can’t much identify with. I wasn’t even sure there was a story here until Atticus’ case representing Tom Robinson rolled in, but that then made the whole first half of the book feel somewhat extraneous.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I disliked the book at all, I thought it was perfectly fine as it is. It has kind of an odd dreamy quality, narrated from the perspective of an adolescent girl as it is, clearly reflecting back on things from later in her adulthood. But I feel like I’m not sharing the same experience as the millions before me. I don’t like the people the book clearly intends for you to like. Atticus is a good man, sure, but he’s emotionally distant and, well, kind of a smug prick. And I didn’t much care about Tom Robinson, an innocent man who didn’t deserve what he got.

I liked Dill. He’s a dreamer, an optimist, he looks towards the horizon, sees the undiscovered country waiting beyond, and it breaks his heart that he can’t go there. I liked Miss Maudie, and I even liked Aunt Alexandra by the end.

It’s not a bad book, but I don’t see what makes it so great.

I have a lot of writing to do.

•March 31, 2013 • Leave a Comment

A few weeks back, I finally finished the rough (rough) draft of a book I’m currently calling Where Daemons Dare. What is it about, you ask? Well, it has a number of things I appreciate; paramilitary organizations, secret religious orders, betrayal, supernatural forces, bleak and desolate locations, and assertive women with large-calibre assault weapons, oh baby.

In the meantime, resting between drafts so WDD can be fresh when I go back to it for the endless process of rewriting into a coherant thing, I’ve been working on my four-chapter contribution to A Clash of Cocks, the sequel to the award-winning* A Game of Bones. It goes well! There is sex, but there is also pathos and drama. I take my erotic epics seriously, folks. All that saucy historical fiction I read? That’s research.

I’ve also begun the rough draft of a totally different project. I’ll probably put it out under a pen name so it doesn’t taint my eventual Real Author Cred, since it is going to be weird erotica. I understand freaky books about fucking sell pretty well on the Kindle, and I want some of that delicious pervert market.

Then there’s also notes for two entirely unrelated-to-anything-else books sitting on my computer, waiting to be developed into stories and outlines. Busy, busy.

Delta~ :3

Samurai William

•March 29, 2013 • 1 Comment

samurai-william

So a couple of years ago, I participated in an online Secret Santa. I submitted a list of topics I found interesting and my Santa was to find me a book that sounded up my alley. Somewhere on the list were the words “history” and “Japan”, so my Secret Santa got me Samurai William, by Giles Milton. It’s the story of William Adams, an English navigator who washed up on the shores of Japan and became a part of history. Adams’ story has been novelized many times, like by James Clavell, the author of Shogun.

Samurai William isn’t a novel like I expected. It’s more like a very long series of news articles, which makes sense as Milton is a journalist. He did a ton of research, the names of which books are included in the appendix so you can read them yourself, and uses quotes directly from people’s journals and letters to describe events and people. I find that absolutely charming, as he doesn’t even change much the bizarre spelling people like Adams used. It’s amazing to read and adds so much flavour to the work.

I found myself often wishing for more detail on people like Tokugawa Ieyasu, who became the Shogun and Adams’ friend, but as this book is about William Adams and not the Shogun, I just had to deal with it. Thankfully there’s an appendix with a list of books on the era! Or I could just play Samurai Warriors.

Is it good or is it ain’t?

It’s astonishingly good. I had long been curious as to the real story of the man whose tale inspired Clavell’s Shogun; despite that book containing terrific detail of clothes and locations and some fun action scenes while this talks about trading and corporate politics, Samurai William is actually more exciting and emotionally gripping. The final pages of the book talk about the influence William Adams left on Japanese history and how no one knows if he has any surviving decendants, and I found myself tearing up. It was just too sad. I suppose that’s the story of every historical figure, though; everyone’s life ends in tragedy.

But thanks to this book, I have a few more places on the list of sites to visit when I someday visit Japan. キタ━━━(゜∀゜)━━━!!!!!