By Dan Simmons.
Begun 04 July 2009; finished 12 July.
Review written 14 July 2009.
Ilium, Dan Simmons’ science fiction adaptation of Homer’s Iliad, ended with the scholic Hockenberry’s successful turning of the Greeks and Trojans against the gods on Mount Olympus, and Earth’s posthumans’ epiphany of their collective history and existence. Nevertheless, Ilium had only started to uncover the greater truths, and there were still many puzzles that have not been resolved yet. Olympos is the novel that promises to bring all the storylines together and reveal all the mysteries — and it does, albeit in a byzantine and flawed manner.
By Neil Gaiman.
Begun 15 June 2009; finished 22 June.
Review written 14 July 2009.
Neil Gaiman is good at writing timeless stories where there is no sense of time and and historical place, but the story could take place at any time you can imagine. That’s the quality of the Sandman graphic novels, and also Stardust. Gaiman’s fairy tale of a young man from a village who goes on a quest into Faery to bring back a fallen star for his beau — but discovers that desires and sentiments change, and he is destined for more than just a simple village life.
A fine fairy tale, mixing elements of various mythologies, and with a characteristically Gaiman ending — ambivalent, realist, and neither tragic or happily ever after. A good story, but like all of Gaiman’s other works, impersonal and a bit detached. I’ve never been able to warm to Gaiman’s stories or characters, and he’s never invited me to. So far I remain appreciative but indifferent to his writing.
I also had a chance to look at the graphic novel of Stardust, illustrated by Charles Vess. (It’s actually the novel with copious illustrations.) Vess’ artistic style doesn’t capture me, but it is colourful, intricate and fairy-like, and appropriate for the story. I also saw snatches of the movie adaptation, and whilst I can understand the movie’s very different ending, I prefer the novel’s ending much more.
Posted in Novel
Tagged Neil Gaiman
Being, Majestrum and The Spiral Labyrinth.
By Matthew Hughes.
Begun 29 May 2009; finished 13 June.
For ’10 Books From My Library’ reading challenge.
Review written 14 July 2009.
If you like the wit and humour of Charles Dickens or Terry Pratchett, an anachronistic “gaslight romance”-esque setting where technology and magic clash and meld together, and light-hearted, optimistic detective stories, Matthew Hughes’ tales of Henghis Hapthorn will surely appeal to you. These stories are set in a very distant future that could well be fantastical, in an age where Reason, or “linear rationalism”, and its attendant technologies prevail. But the forces of Magic, or “sympathetic association”, are on the rise in this universe, and they intrude prematurely into the life of Henghis Hapthorn, Old Earth’s foremost freelance detective. Hapthorn’s sensible, orderly and logical life is thrown out of kilter when his integrator (an A.I. or computer) transforms into a small fruit-eating mammal, and the intuitive part of his psyche takes on a persona of its own, essentially becoming a separate person but sharing the same body. The two novels of Majestrum and The Spiral Labyrinth follow Hapthorn as he struggles to cope with this (to him) infuriating situation, all the while tackling two mysterious cases which ultimately bring him to the chaotic interface of Reason and Intuition/Magic.
By Sean McMullen.
Begun 22 May 2009; finished 29 May.
I had the misfortune of reading Sean McMullen’s Greatwinter trilogy out of order — The Miocene Arrow before Souls in the Great Machine — and have finally read Eyes of the Calculor almost 3 years late, when I’d forgotten much of the previous two books. But memories began to come back, and I was able to recall the backstories to some degree and understand the entire series as a whole. As these novels run together with little pause, I recommend that you don’t do as I did, and instead read the series in quick succession before you forget the details (of which there are many).
The Greatwinter trilogy is about a future-Earth where the human race, after a series of apocalyptic catastrophes followed by a long “dark age”, has rebuilt into a agrarian, semi-technological civilization. It is a saga spanning continents, cultures and numerous characters, and could be best described as a future-Earth geopolitical epic.
By John Scalzi.
Begun 16 May 2009; finished 21 May.
Zoe’s Tale complements The Last Colony (complete Scalzi review), as a retelling of the same events of the earlier novel from the point of view of Zoë Boutin-Perry, the adopted daughter of John and Jane Perry. Whilst it is essentially the same story of the human colony colonizing the new planet of Roanoke amidst astro-political upheaval and warring between the human Colonial Union and the alien Conclave, it is narrated in Zoë’s distinct voice, provides a new perspective on the same events, and fills in some gaps that weren’t dealt with in The Last Colony.
May I introduce you to The Black Letters, a joint literary blog run by Emera, my good friend and fellow bibliophile. The Black Letters is slanted towards SF, fantastical and historical fiction, sprinkled with bibliophilia such as bookstore visits and book-curiosities. So far I’ve enjoyed reading their intelligent posts, so please pay Emera and Kakaner a visit!
Where do you head for in a bookstore? was a question asked by Jeff VanderMeer a while back. On my part, I make a beeline towards the (1) SF/Fantasy section to scope out the latest interesting titles, then comes: (2) graphic novels/illustrated/artbooks, (3) kids/young adults fiction, (4) literary fiction, (5) non-fiction science/mathematics/natural history, (6) non-fiction arts/culture, (7) general fiction, (8) non-fiction artbooks (ie. architecture, design, photography), and finally (9) latest releases and bargain bins, by which time I’m tired of the bookstore and proceed to the exit. Most of the time I don’t make it past (3).
How do you make your rounds in a bookstore?
Sundry updates! I’m still on my official graphic novel reading challenge; since it’s proven to be a great success I shall extend it to the end of August. I’m currently working through my back-log of book and film reviews. Also in the works are more Bookshelf posts (including the recent autograph session with China Miéville) and reviews and summary of the graphic novel challenge.
I’m generally not a watcher of anime, so the story of how I came to know Last Exile is somewhat interesting. It was on a vacation in Italy that I saw the end of a Last Exile episode on TV (and it was dubbed in Italian too!). I was fascinated by the steampunk/retro-futuristic setting and managed to memorize a few of the characters’ names from the credits — no matter that it was anime and I’m not very fond of the anime/manga artform. However, I couldn’t find the anime title from what I remembered, so it was a while later that I saw the setting again and discovered it was Last Exile. Earlier this year I got to watch it all through with a friend.
Last Exile is set in a retro-futuristic world, where the two nations of this world are at perpetual war. Continue reading
Posted in Film
This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.
In the order which I thought them:
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavic
The Planiverse by A.K. Dewdney
Primary Inversion by Catherine Asaro
The Book of Lost Tales by J.R.R. Tolkien
Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
Firebird by Kathy Tyers
The Conference of the Birds by Farid ud-Din Attar
River of Gods by Ian McDonald
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Cancer Ward by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
This wasn’t hard. For sure, these books have stuck with me for a while, and I don’t think they’re going anywhere!