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Pair Books and Solo Books - Qualified Perceptions
firstfrost
firstfrost
Pair Books and Solo Books
The Foxes of the Firstdark (by Garry Kilworth)
I am forever trying to find Watership Down again, which occupies a special place in my heart. This isn't it. It deliberately tries to be - there's the hunting, and the construction equipment, and the Terrible Dog, and the gruff but charming animal from another species with a funny accent (a badger instead of a seagull), and the words in the animal-language, and the runty mystic, and the animal mythology and spirit that comes at death... all the trappings are there, but no arc plot to tie it together, and none of the heart. The two best features of the book: First, there were some very nice Asop's Baffles, from a fox-centric point of view. Second, a "gubbins" is fox for roadkill, and "dovre" is a train line between Oslo and Trondheim, so "Dovregubbins" must mean something like "Small animal squashed by train." Who knew?
One and a half stars.

Dead Until Dark and Living Dead in Dallas (by Charlaine Harris)
So, you know the web sites where someone retells Star Wars with little lego people, and it's suddenly much funnier than the original? The Southern Vampire Mysteries (of which these are the first two, recommended by tirinian's mom) make me think of someone telling the Anita Blake stories with lego people. I can just see Ms. Harris sitting at her desk, drinking mint juleps, flinging a couple of the lego people at each other, and giggling. Whee! There's mesmerizing vampires. There's sex. There's other random supernatural stuff going on. There's were-people. There's a murder mystery each book (though I get the feeling that's the part the author cares about least, but she thinks it's required for the genre). And then there's rednecks and cute bar waitresses and trucks. Dead Until Dark does the setup quite competently; Living Dead in Dallas is more haphazard (and there's definitely a pigpile of all the lego people in the plot towards the end), but I did find them both pretty fun. One particularly nice point - I find the fights between the main character and her vampire boyfriend completely believable. These are the sorts of arguments real people (well, one of them a vampire) would have, for partly-legitimate partly-over-reacting reasons. Three and a half stars, maybe half a star more if sex and vampires is your genre of choice.

Smoke (by Donald Westlake)
This was recommended by ricedog as his favorite of Westlake's books. I'm not sure if I liked it better than the Dortmunder books, but then, I really like the Dortmunder books. How do you steal stuff if you're invisible but the stuff you're stealing isn't? I'd not thought so much about that before, but the answers are amusing. The villains of the book are the Forces of Big Tobacco, so it's easy to root for the thief as the good guy, and pretty much everyone is clever rather than stupid, at least most of the time. Good lazy summer reading: four and a half stars.

The Hidden Queen (by Alma Alexander)
Another of Tirinian's Mom's books. This is part one, Changer of Days finishes the story. It's interesting. The mood is evocative, though sometimes the author doesn't trust her voice and has to explicitly tell the reader "This is evocative!" Similarly, sometimes she'll say things like "she wove a tale that was as a vision under the desert night" or describe how one person carefully ferrets out a secret, so skillfully that the victim doesn't know they've given it away. But she never shows us the language, just describes it, and I found that a little disappointing. An author can't show us art, or show us music, when they describe it, but they can show us language. But she doesn't. The plot follows the deposed rightful queen, from when she loses the throne as a young child to when she's old enough to return. So a lot of time has a to pass, which it does in fits and starts. A little awkward, but then, it would be more awkward to have the story go more smoothly and not actually realize when time passes. Anyway. Too much telling, not enough showing, but when she does show, it's a good story. Three stars. I don't regret reading it, but I haven't bothered to buy the sequel to complete the set.

Book of Enchantments (by Patricia Wrede)
I don't tend to read a lot of books of short stories, but this promised to be fairy tales of one form or another. For a compilation of the author's works from hither and yon, it was quite a coherent theme. Several honest to goodness fairy tales, as well as several things closer to old-fasshioned fantasy or modern fantasy. But still, several very good fairy tales. I particularly liked Stronger than Time, a haunting little thing about a Sleeping Beauty whose spell didn't end. There's a surprise that isn't so surprising, but it isn't about the surprise, it's about the people and the way they look at each other, and the things they say to each other. The peasant, whose story it really isn't, after all, is the perfect heart of the tale, because he has enough personal depth to make him real and tragic too, without being at all heroic. The Sword Seller was the only one of the lot I didn't think so much of, because it seemed very muddled, but it's set in Andre Norton's Witch World, which I've never read any of, so maybe it would make more sense if I had the background. Four stars.

The Waterborn and Blackgod (by J. Gregory Keyes)
This might have been a standard fantasy epic - there's a young man with a magic sword, and a spunky child-princess with powers - but it's not. Mostly because I had no idea where it was going, most of the time, especially in the first book. There's no dragons to slay, the Big Powers all seem to think that they're right, maybe the priesthood is evil but they stomp out the people who are turning into monsters, and that can't be bad, can it? There are lots of teams at odds with each other, for good reasons. Sometimes characters make plausible stupid choices and end up as sort-of bad guys. Anyway. Keyes clearly knew where he was going, even if I didn't, and it's a magnificent ride.

The cultures are different and interesting. More attention is given to how the magic sword works than you usually see, and it's fun to watch. The initial relationship between the princess and the librarian is one of the best cranky-guy-with-heart-of-gold interactions I've ever read. The half-giant is shiningly loyal, which always appeals to me. The princess reminds me of early Katya for lots of silly reasons. Lots of good things. This was Keyes' debut, so it's a little rougher than Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone (I haven't read Age of Unreason yet), but it's a lot better than most things I read, and amazing for a first book. Four and a half stars.

Mothership (by John Brosnan)
It's a book about a generation ship gone horribly awry, run by the Elite. So mjperson made me buy it. He wasn't there, granted, but he was in my head saying "oooh! get that one!". And like several other of the books he's made me read, I wasn't so impressed with it. The characters pretend to be developing, but don't really. The book ends strangely early. And we have Yet Another Example Of Authors Who Don't Understand Gravity Or Things Like Gravity (Extremes was the other: the moon is only low-gravity where there's no air...): the characters are on the outside of a rotating ship (about .75g inside). They're floating, 'cause they're in zero-g, of course. They use their magnetic boots to anchor themselves to the hull, and open the airlock to climb in. One of them warns the other "remember, once you're inside and on the floor, you'll be subject to [the ship's] centrifugal force again". There's actually a mention that the magnetic boots keep you from flying away from centrifugal force, but he doesn't seem to get that it's the same .75g inside as outside. You don't float through the airlock and then become subject to centrifugal force. You are hanging upside down by your magnet-boots on the outside, not standing on the outside... One and a half stars.

The two Dead Until Dark books, The Hidden Queen, and Smoke are borrowable (except that mjperson has Smoke). Mothership is yours if you want it and say so soon.

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Comments
arcanology From: arcanology Date: July 13th, 2005 08:39 am (UTC) (Link)

I have all of Age of Unreason, and recommend it.
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: July 13th, 2005 11:07 am (UTC) (Link)
"The princess reminds me of early Katya for lots of silly reasons."

Well, clearly this is a mandate to read the thing, to find out what she's talking about. :)

If I ask you nicely, may I borrow yours? :)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: July 13th, 2005 11:27 am (UTC) (Link)
They weren't in the borrowable listing not 'cause I'm possessive, but because I read the MITSFS copies. On the other hand, I discovered that I do have a paperback of Waterborn, and was considering buying Blackgod to complete the set. So I can loan you at least the first.

(Or, maybe since there was confusion, Age of Unreason is the Keyes series I haven't read yet).
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: July 13th, 2005 11:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah, yes, I mis-assigned the various titles and took Age of Unreason to be the series name for the series you were reviewing books of, in which case I could have borrowed it from Arcanology. But now I look again and see that it's yet a third thing, so while attempting to borrow it from him might be edifying, it wouldn't actually be the same books after all. :)

You took out a book from MITSFS only to discover you own it? *After* cataloguing your library? :) :) :)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: July 13th, 2005 12:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, I was in the MITSFS, and saw them both, and said to myself "Ooh, Keyes, I really liked Briar King. I read Waterborn ages ago when it came out - I should read the sequel! But I should probably read Waterborn again to remember it."

But cataloguing the library didn't actually put all of it in active memory for me. There's 2000 of them!
jdbakermn From: jdbakermn Date: July 27th, 2005 04:22 am (UTC) (Link)

Have you ever thought about...

Making an Amazon.com list of "Firstfrost Recommends..."? Or something like that? I have to say that the percentage of books that I buy based on your recommendations is approaching 50%. :) Thank you!!!
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