First Frost of Autumn (firstfrost) wrote,
First Frost of Autumn

Five books (one trilogy)

The Big Over Easy (by Jasper Fforde)
So, there's the murder investigation into the death of Humpty Dumpty, which is a firmly tongue-in-cheek forensic police procedural. (I think there's a gaping huge forensic hole, as it turns out, but it's very spoilery). Then there's the plot about the Detective Guild, which is all about having the sidekick write up your adventures and publish, so investigations which are photogenic and involve lots of Innovative Clues and Confessions at the End are vastly preferred. I liked the first Thursday Next quite a lot, but thought they went downhill; I think this is about as much fun as the first Thursday was, though it's a bit of a different style (more of an old-fashioned mystery, less of a thriller). Four and a half stars.

The Braided Path: The Weavers of Saramyr, The Skein of Lament, and The Ascendancy Veil (by Chris Wooding)
I wonder, if I call it a curate's egg of a trilogy, will anyone know what I mean? It should be a grand lovely epic; full of betrayal and characters of dubious honor, full of noble striving and characters of self-sacrificing loyalty, full of horror and characters of blackest evil. And it has all those, and a sweeping arc of rebellions (both the good kind and the bad kind) and mystic rituals and toppling empires and everything. Despite all that, and a generally competent writing style, the story still doesn't pull me in, and I'm not sure why. It might be that the characters of dubious honor are a little too opaque - not only am I not sure which side they're on, I'm not sure which side I'm supposed to mistakenly think they're on. It might be that the characters of blackest evil are a little too evil - they're a seriously creepy horror theme in what is otherwise a game-of-houses / adventure story. I don't think it's actually the occasional Really Odd turn of phrase, but I must quote this one anyway. Someone has just been killed, and his soul is joining the Weave, the all-purpose magic/spirit concept: "There was only the growing golden light, and the threads that seemed to sew through everything, wafting him like fallopian cilia towards what lay beyond oblivion." Overall, three stars, with patches of three-and-a-half and patches of two.

Only Forward (by Michael Marshall Smith)
I have never properly appreciated Philip K. Dick's novels (though I tend to really like the summaries on the back cover). Similarly, I'm always a little dubious about books that win Philip K. Dick awards; there's always a little too much "what the hell?" obscuring the plot. And Only Forward has an awfully pretentious bit of puffery on the back cover. But that's really all I have bad to say about the book. It starts like a ... zany semi-violent noir over-the-top surreal future city, like a Richard K Morgan story with clown noses for everyone. The snarky elevator, and the color-coordinated neighborhood and noting that while the narrator's cat was multi-talented, he had never yet tidied the apartment... bah, it's hard to capture in brief quotes the breakneck-speed fireworks going by. The narration is casual and quirky and fun, and the adventure is pretty compelling, and the characters likeable. That's when the story sets its hooks. So by the time the author kicks the legs out from under you and takes things off in a new direction (through some "what the hell?", of course) the hooks are there to pull you along. And then the plot does an Immelman turn into an entirely new dimension, pausing here and there to drop some of those metaphoric and poetic Truths (I'm not totally sure they're true, but they're definitely Truths) that stay with you long after you forget the details of what happened, and it finally comes in for a reasonably solid landing. The changes of direction do slow things down a bit (some Amazon reviewers quite disliked the middle bit), and there's a lot more horror and haunting sadness than in the first section, but I still liked it all. It's not my genre of choice, but I couldn't put it down. And, dear God, it's his first novel. Five stars. (I was recommended this book by rifmeister, who was recommended it by Ireland Lass. Only reading it months later, I promptly recommended it back to rifmeister, having forgotten the whole thing.)
Tags: book reviews

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