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Six Books - Qualified Perceptions
Six Books
Warbreaker (by Brandon Sanderson)
I listened to this as an audiobook, and I think the narrator's choice of voices rather put me off. I really liked Elantris and also the Mistborn trilogy; Mistborn in particular had a complex magic/psi system that he spent a lot of time detailing. Warbreaker also has a magic system that he goes into a lot of detail about, but I found it less... well, I can't really say "plausible" when comparing magic systems. Less elegant, more contrived, I suppose. Some nice plot twists, and nice character development, though. I'll say three and a half stars, but I think I would have scored it higher without the annoying voices.

Quicksilver Rising (by Stan Nicholls)
I think I must have bought this in New Zealand, because why else would I have a paperback with a $15.99 price tag? I realize now that this is by the same author as the horrible Orcs book, but didn't realize this until I had started to put in little bookmarks to rant about later. Thus, some bullet points of ranting:
  • First, about two thirds of the book is spent putting the party together. I accept that it's the first of a trilogy and thus does not have to wrap everything up, but it should get started faster.
  • Second, there's a whole sub-party that I do not understand why they are in the book. Their entire plot seems to be
    1. Eeek! Motivate us by killing a loved one!
    2. Oh, it is so lucky we found you. Please give up working in the resistance, it is too dangerous.
    3. Oh, I am so glad to have found you. I love you so much. But I shall not give up the resistance, it is too important.
    4. GOTO 2
  • Okay, so the main character has berserker fits. Or something. And the junior main chains him up the first time, to keep them safe. This sequence ends with "Then he stood by the grille and watched what happened next in amazement." By the end of the book, I still don't know if it's frothing or werewolfery or he turns into the Incredible Hulk or what, though "cure the mysterious ailment" is the main motivator of half the party.
  • The leaders of one empire remark to each other: "The people are sleepwalkers. If it weren't for the fact that their usefulness marginally outweighs their annoyance value, I'd advocate a cull." Well, okay, that demonstrates that they are BAD GUYS. But "I'd really like to kill the populace because they're kind of annoying" is like that Antz bad guy plan of "Elimanate all the queens, and then rule!" in terms of long term society feasibility.
  • "We've had too many sightings for it to be beyond doubt." No, you mean "in doubt". This is a tiny nitpick, but a lot of the writing is like this, kind of off.
  • I think a guardian beast that shows off by swiping its claws through the books of records, shredding leather and paper together, is not what you want to have guarding your records room.
  • When you're putting together your Strike Team against the enemy, and your two top people are the woman who defected and used to run Strike Teams for the enemy and the the man who doesn't really want to be on your team and is kind of antisocial, of course you put the guy in charge. And then you call attention to it by saying "For reasons of their own that they didn't explain, they put the guy in charge."
  • It's kind of ending on a serious unpleasant note to have your female lead end the book by failing in her attempt at suicide because her life sucks.

Victory of Eagles (by Naomi Novik)
The fifth book in the Temeraire series. The previous one ended on a cliffhanger; I was wondering if this one was the last, as it does reach a good stopping point. (But no, there will be a book 6). I enjoy the series, though I am starting to get to needing a reminder who some of the characters from earlier books are. Four stars.

Unseen Academicals (by Terry Pratchett)
Another audiobook to knit to. Okay as far as Pratchett goes, which means better than most books, but not one of my favorites. I don't care for the Wizards much, and Vetinari was more normal and less brilliant than he often is. But the main plot about Mr. Nutt was nice, and often not quite the direction I expected. Four stars.

The Peshawar Lancers (by S. M. Stirling)
A pulp adventure story in an alternate history. What could be better than fighting atop a burning zeppelin? A little too much italicized-Indian-words for me that reminded me of this xkcd, but generally solid. The cinematic feel to the fight scenes was sometimes marred by my not being able to understand envision things properly ("if the window was blown in, why is she *out* the window and below it... or is it a different window?"). I think I'm giving a lackluster endorsement to a fine book, which just didn't manage to grab me properly. Three stars.

Ysabel (by Guy Gavriel Kay)
This one was foisted on me by mjperson, though I think not with the intention that I write a rant about it. It's beautiful, like everything Kay writes is, and a little too fond of not telling you things, also like everything Kay writes, but I think I agree with Kim, who declares on page 348 "I've decided not to like her [Ysabel]." She is the archtypical beautiful, proud but cruel woman, loved beyond all measure of time and love - but being beautiful (even very very beautiful) and cruel is no longer enough for me to accept that she is deserving of such impossible love, poetic though it is. I require another adjective - "beautiful, proud/cruel, and protecting her people" is a good one. It works for me for queens. As it is, it feels to me a little too much like "and she just keeps messing with them, over and over." I also strongly dislike the claim that if you really loved me, you would do this impossible thing for me; if you cannot do the impossible, it is because you do not love me enough. Now, I find the opposite claim of "Because I love you, I will do the impossible for you" completely acceptable, and in fiction, the doing-the-impossible even often works. But I quite resented Westley in The Princess Bride for being mad at Buttercup for not continuing to wait for him after he had been dead for three years - it's a little more complicated, because he's doing the impossible thing there, but he's still saying "You should have known I would come for you, even though I was dead, and because you didn't believe that, you didn't really love me."

Still, I feel like I'm looking at an exquisite work of art and kvetching because that's not the way colors work in real life. And if mjperson loves it because he's more of a romantic than I am, he's right too.

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13 comments or Leave a comment
readsalot From: readsalot Date: November 27th, 2009 10:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
I had pretty much the same reaction to Ysabel (both the character and the book.) I just couldn't figure out why everyone was so obsessed with her, and since that obsession drove the plot, it was all pointless for me.
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: November 27th, 2009 11:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I must know how many stars Ysabel and Mercury Rising get.

Is Ysabel supposed to be Ysabel of Castile? That would explain the "competent, nasty, and loved by all" thing.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: November 27th, 2009 11:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm. I will give Ysabel three stars, but it's more like four stars and an anti-star.

Mercury Rising has Bruce Willis, which is better than nothing; probably two stars for the book, because it does have a few redeeming features.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: November 27th, 2009 11:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
(Oh, and no, it's not Ysabel of Castile)
twe From: twe Date: November 28th, 2009 04:05 am (UTC) (Link)
I would be interested in reading Ysabel if it is borrowable, though I am expecting to be much more of your mind that Mike's.

Have you had a chance to read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon yet? Did you like it? (Also, one of the midwives was telling me about a woman named Lisa See (not sure of the spelling) who apparently writes ghost stories set in historical China, which might be vaguely interesting given Dragon.)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: November 28th, 2009 04:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have confirmed that you can borrow Ysabel, though the usual trick of sending it to work with Jerry will no longer work. :)

(I did just finish Where the Mountain Meets the Moon last night, and it was adorable!)
twe From: twe Date: November 28th, 2009 04:21 pm (UTC) (Link)


True enough, though I could certainly walk the half block to Derrick's some Thursday night if it were to find it's way there.
mjperson From: mjperson Date: November 28th, 2009 04:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're not really supposed to like Ysabel I think. She's too *doomed* to be likable. Plus, she's a jerk.

Luckily, she barely appears in the book. It's about the search for love, not the finding of it.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: November 28th, 2009 04:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
But it's not really about the search for love, more like hide and seek for love. :} You don't get to see how they came to love her (other than because one cannot help but do so), or what she is to them (except utterly everything). The two men *do* have character, and behave interestingly, so it's more like they just both took the 30 point disad of "In Love with Ysabel" and didn't sketch it out any further.

Ned does get some "search for love" plot, though he's kind of thin.
fredrickegerman From: fredrickegerman Date: November 28th, 2009 04:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I definitely felt I had to suspend disbelief on the 30-point disad or the book didn't work.

Look, a book I read before you!
fxz From: fxz Date: November 30th, 2009 12:20 am (UTC) (Link)
I listened to Warbreaker recently (though I didn't mind the reader that much). Then the whole Mistborn series. Oh, and Elantris a little bit before that.

What would you call Brandon Sanderson's books (romance plus game mechanics?) and where do I find more like that?
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: November 30th, 2009 05:05 am (UTC) (Link)
The other thing that springs to mind as "romance plus game mechanics" is the Chronicles of Chaos series by John C. Wright, though he's quite different from Sanderson. Alas, he he has converted to rather unlikeably religiously conservative, so I don't expect any more books like this.
fxz From: fxz Date: November 30th, 2009 11:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I got through the first one of the Chaos series, but its limited quotient of romance felt less like Vin and Elend and more like Kim Harrison. (Loved his Golden Age series, though, since it was pure big ideas)
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