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Three Books - Qualified Perceptions
Three Books

Monstrous Regiment (Terry Pratchett)
I like Pratchett a lot. I like his characterizations, which remind me of minimal-Chinese-brushstroke paintings. It doesn't take him a lot of words to make a large cast interesting and different, so he can juggle a group quite competently. I usually like his tendency to sprinkle a mystery in as he goes along (well, not so much a mystery as just a Thing the Reader Doesn't Know but can Maybe Figure Out Before Being Told Eventually). I really really like the Watch group; the mages are a little too goofy for me. Monstrous Regiment has some cameos by Vimes, but not enough for my preference (and he's more of a Vimes-ex-machina than a real person most of the time). I liked the initial exposition, and the ensemble, quite a lot. The ending left me a little disappointed. The level of exaggeration ramped up a bit, and I was happier with it where it was before. (4 out of 5 stars - not my favorite Pratchett, but by no means a bad one).

The Anvil of the World (Kage Baker)
This is glorious. Must go find all other Kage Baker books, and read them all. It's something of a cross between a novel and four novellettes. The main characters are all introduced in the first part, and I liked the way in which they are gradually revealed to be more interesting than at first glance, more by actions than exposition. The first part is the slowest of the four, hampered as it is by introductions, but by the second part it picks up speed and never slows down. (It was a little odd, I think, the way the "party" doesn't stay together at the end of the first part, but all the important ones come back to visit once in a while, coincidentally just when the later parts take place.) The setting is novel, fun, and delineated in spare but informative strokes. Interestingly, someone else took notes on a card which was in the book, and they also didn't note anything particular in part 1, and the first thing they noted was the first quote I felt compelled to read aloud to tirinian:
"What are they so upset about? I thought nothing was forbidden in Salesh during Festival time."
"They're talking about sins of the flesh, not manslaughter," Smith pointed out.
"Oh. Well, it ought to say so on those brochures, then!"
Lots of humor, but lots of serious drama, too. (4.5 out of 5 stars, deducting half a star for the slow opening).

Sunshine (Robin McKinley)
I kinda like vampire stories. As vampire stories go, this is a pretty good one. And not only are there very nice vampires, there's a whole alternate-history Earth-with-weirdshit backstory, complete with little tweaky details like the use of "carthaginian" as an expletive. The puppyish not-entirely-inanimate-objects used as wards I thought were cute. The characters are clear and distinct and ring reasonably true. The coffeehouse that is the center of the book (if not the action) is the sort of coffeehouse I'd love to be a regular at (it's sort of an Idealized Coffeehouse, the way Spider Robinson's Callahan's Saloon is an Idealized Bar). On the back cover, Neil Gaiman says "Sunshine is a gripping, funny, page-turning, pretty much perfect work of magical literature...". Which is moderately true, I suppose, but it segues well into my only real complaint with the book: it would make a perfect Neil Gaiman graphic novel, but as a full book, there are just too many words. The heroine just goes on and on to herself, thinking about things incessantly. If stripped to the bare bones of the action, it's not that long a story. A quote:
I steadied myself. I found an... alignment. Somewhere. Somewhere, reaching in the dark... I was... no, I wasn't standing. There didn't seem to be anything to stand on, and I wasn't sure there was any of me to stand with. If my feet had disappeared, then perhaps it wasn't surprising that my eyes - no, my sight - had disappeared too. This wasn't just darkness: this was what came after. This was the beyond-dark. And I could only see in the dark. My eyes were still there - or perhaps they were now my non-eyes - I couldn't see with them and blinking no longer seemed relevant, but the pressure was there. And why was it so difficult to breath? Especially since at the same time breathing seemed as irrelevant as blinking. Why did I want to breathe?
It's not badly written. But it's longly written, for something that doesn't say very much. I can completely imagine that as one panel, in a Sandman graphic novel. Dark grey, white text: "I... wasn't anywhere". And it's the graphic novel I would rather have read. (3.5 out of 5 stars)

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jadia From: jadia Date: March 30th, 2004 07:35 am (UTC) (Link)
I read Sunshine too, recently. I was all excited that it was a new Robin McKinley book (who I really like), and then I open it, and the protagonist does nothing but babble incessantly.

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